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Obesity and Cancer Correlation

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Obesity and Cancer Correlation

Are you suffering from obesity and have difficulty in managing your body weight?

Are you aware that prolonged weight gain can result in the rise of other health conditions such as cancers, among others?

Obesity is a health condition which can be treated with a planned approach of treatment, but with the associated co-morbidities of obesity, treatment could be a challenging task.

Please read the following blog to gain insights into how obesity can give rise to various cancers.

What is Obesity?

Obesity, as is well known, is the culmination of body fat. This body fat has the tendency to convert into energy when the human body is subjected to a vigorous activity which may include performing job duties at the office, doing household activities, and performing exercises at home or in a gym.

Many factors can cause people to become obese, including hormonal, genetic, emotional, environmental and cultural factors. Compared to normal-weight people, people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of many other diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and many cancers. Extreme or severe obesity is also associated with increased mortality. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the causes of most excessive deaths.

Scroll down to learn more about cancers associated with obesity.

Does Obesity Cause Cancer?

Yes, being overweight (obesity) is the second most common cause of cancer. Studies reveal that out of every 20 cancer cases reported, one case of cancer is comorbid with obesity.

The longer an individual is under the overweight category, the higher the risk of contracting cancer.

The good news is that small changes that are maintained over time can make a real difference.

What Types of Cancer are Caused by Obesity?

Being obese does not mean that an individual could contract cancer. However, if someone is overweight, they are more likely to develop cancer compared to a healthy-weight person. Excess fat in the body not only stays there but actively sends signals throughout your body. These signals can instruct cells in our body to divide more frequently, which can cause cancer. Despite the limitations of the study design, there is consistent evidence that higher body fat levels are associated with an increased risk of various cancers, including:

  • Endometrial cancer
  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma
  • Gastric cardia cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Multiple myelomas
  • Meningioma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Colorectal cancer:
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Correlation Between Obesity and Risk of Cancer:

The relationship between obesity and cancer risk is clear. However, it is not clear as to how obesity leads to cancer. Research has shown that excessive body fat increases the risk of various cancers, including colon cancer, cancer of the uterus, oesophagus, kidneys and pancreas.

It is not clear as to how obesity increases this risk. Researchers believe that this is mainly due to inflammation caused by visceral fat  (fat that surrounds your vital organs). The problem with excessive visceral fat is that it affects certain functions in your body, including how your body controls hormones such as insulin and estrogen.  All of this can cause an increased risk of cancer, which affects the normal function of the cells.

Several studies have examined why overweight or obesity can increase cancer risk and growth. Possible causes of obesity-related cancer are:

  • Increased insulin levels and insulin-1 growth factor (IGF-1), which can develop several cancers
  • Chronic mild inflammation, which is more common in overweight people and is associated with an increased risk of cancer
  • Higher estrogen levels are produced from adipose tissue which can stimulate the development of several types of cancer, such as breast cancer and endometrial cancer
  • Fat cells can affect the processes that regulate cancer cell growth.

Brief Explanation for the Above Points:

How does obesity cause inflammation?

In obese people, a lot of visceral fat cells are available, which are thick and large. As cells get bigger with fat, they gasp for oxygen forcing them to become inflamed. Over a period of time, this inflammation may lead to DNA damage and lead to cancer.

Cancer occurs when cells multiply in an uncontrolled way, damage cells in their environment, and cause disease. The more the cells divide and multiply, the greater the risk of formation of tumours.

Inflammation and Insulin

Studies show that overeating leads to exerting pressure on the membranous network inside body cells called Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER). The primary function of an ER is the synthesis of lipids, protein, and secretion of steroid hormones from cholesterol. Overeating burdens the ER network. As a result, the ER sends a signal to the cell to reduce the function of insulin receptors on the cell surface. This leads to resistance to insulin and the presence of high sugar glucose in the blood.

How Does Estrogen Increase Cancer Risk?

Estrogen is a hormone which helps in influencing our appetite, body fat distribution, and metabolism. One form of Estrogen is Estradiol, whose secretion decreases at menopause. Lower levels of Estradiol result in weight gain. Weight gain results in increased secretion of Estrogen hormone and higher hormone levels increase the risk of breast cancer.

How Lifestyle Changes Can Affect Cancer Risk?

Research has shown that the following factors can influence cancer risk:

  • High birth weight
  • Increased body weight as adults
  • Erratic losing and gaining of weight

Research has shown that maintaining an optimal weight is associated with less risk of cancer and recurrence of cancer in cancer survivors.

Cancer and Obesity: What Can You Do?

One of the most important things you can do to reduce the risk of obesity is to maintain a healthy weight:

There are several steps you can take to prevent obesity.

  • Stay active: Try 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of intense activity per week, which is a modest target.
  • Eat Healthy food: Fill at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, grains or nuts (nuts and peas), and at most 1/3 with animal protein.
  • If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one glass a day if you are a woman and two glasses a day if you are male.
  • Take Rest: Fatigue can make you eat more and make unhealthy choices.
  • Overweight or obesity affects body performance. Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to reduce the risk of cancer.


It is easy to gain weight than lose it. So, care has to be taken to safeguard one’s health by not resorting to unhealthy eating habits, unhealthy habits such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Obesity is a medical condition that can give rise to several co-morbid conditions such as type-2-diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, low-self esteem, anxiety, depression, and many cancers.

Managing obesity alone does not pose a challenge, but treating obesity with its associated conditions is a challenging task. Hence, regulating body weight by resorting to a healthier lifestyle and exercising regularly could make all the difference. If you do have further queries in this regard, please schedule an appointment with us at Sunshine Hospital, Hyderabad-(040) 44550000.

About the Doctor:

Dr Venugopal Pareek – Bariatric Surgeon

Dr Venugopal Pareek is one of the best Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgeon in the city has done more than 9000 surgeries in 12 years. Dr Pareek has the expertise in Bariatric Surgery. He has attended several conferences and published articles on medicine as well in various national and international journals.

About Sunshine Hospitals:

A Multi Super Speciality Institution, 500 bedded Sunshine Hospitals (Paradise Circle, Secunderabad) is promoted by globally reputed Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr AV Gurava Reddy (Orthopedic Doctor) and like-minded associates who share the objective of making world-standard healthcare available, affordable and accessible to the common man. Sunshine has now become one of the best hospitals for many treatments including Orthopedic, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Trauma and Neurology.

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