According to recent reports, 30 percent of adults in Indiana – or nearly 1.8 million people – are considered obese, meaning their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or greater. And these numbers are expected grow, putting Hoosiers at risk of developing numerous cancers such as esophageal, breast, endometrial (lining of the uterus), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder and possibly ovarian, liver and some types of leukemia and lymphoma.
“We know that approximately two-thirds of all cancer deaths can be attributed to modifiable risk factors, such as poor eating, excess weight and tobacco use,” said Jane Ambro, cancer prevention specialist at Indiana University Health. “Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important ways we can protect ourselves and prevent cancer.”
But how exactly does excess weight cause cancer? Experts, according to the National Cancer Institute, have established the following connections:
- Estrogen – Fat tissue produces high levels of estrogen in obese women which is associated with increased risk of endometrial and postmenopausal breast cancers.
- Insulin – Overweight and obese people tend to have increased levels of insulin or insulin-like growth factors in their blood. This is also known as insulin resistance, which can promote colorectal and kidney cancers.
- Hormones – Certain hormones produced by fat cells may stimulate or inhibit cell growth which can lead to tumors.
- Chronic conditions – Obesity-related conditions often increase the risk of developing cancer. For instance, the overweight and obese are more susceptible to gallstones, which is a risk factor for gallbladder cancer. They are also more likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus – caused by acid exposure – which can lead to esophageal cancer. Chronic low-level inflammation, often found in obese people, has also been shown to increase cancer risk.
To find out what your BMI is, click here and enter your height and weight. If you are extremely muscular, your BMI could be somewhat misleading. Be sure and talk with your doctor if you have questions about your BMI, or if you’d like to begin a weight loss plan to achieve a healthy BMI. If you don’t have a doctor, we can help you find one.