How Obesity Increases Your Chances of Developing Cancer

Obesity is a condition where a person has excess body fat that affects their health. Obesity is measured by the body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of weight to height.

A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is a global epidemic that affects more than 650 million adults and 340 million children and adolescents.

Obesity is not only a cosmetic issue, but also a serious health risk. Obesity can lead to various chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. But did you know that obesity can also increase your chances of developing cancer?

The Link Between Obesity and Cancer

Cancer is a disease where abnormal cells grow and divide uncontrollably, forming tumours that can invade and damage other tissues and organs.

Cancer can affect any part of the body, and there are more than 100 types of cancer. Some of the most common cancers are lung, breast, prostate, colorectal, and skin cancer.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, obesity is associated with an increased risk of at least 13 types of cancer, including breast, endometrial, ovarian, colorectal, pancreatic, liver, kidney, gallbladder, oesophageal, stomach, thyroid, meningioma, and multiple myeloma.

Obesity is estimated to account for about 20% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

But how does obesity cause cancer? There are several possible mechanisms, such as:

1. Hormonal imbalance:

Obesity can affect the levels of hormones in the body, such as oestrogen, testosterone, insulin, and leptin.

These hormones can influence the growth and function of cells, and some of them can act as growth factors for cancer cells.

For example, high levels of oestrogen can stimulate the growth of breast and endometrial cancer cells, while high levels of insulin can promote the growth of colorectal and pancreatic cancer cells.

2. Chronic inflammation:

Obesity can cause chronic inflammation in the body, which is a state where the immune system is constantly activated and produces substances that can damage the DNA and cells.

Chronic inflammation can also impair the immune system’s ability to recognize and eliminate abnormal cells, allowing them to grow and spread.

3. Oxidative stress:

Obesity can increase the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are molecules that can damage the DNA and cells. ROS can also activate signalling pathways that can promote the growth and survival of cancer cells.

4. Epigenetic changes:

Obesity can alter the expression of genes that are involved in cell growth, differentiation, and death.

These changes can be caused by factors such as DNA methylation, histone modification, and microRNA regulation. Epigenetic changes can affect the behaviour and function of cells, and some of them can be inherited by the next generation of cells.

How to Prevent Obesity and Cancer

The good news is that obesity and cancer are largely preventable. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of both conditions and improve your overall well-being.

Some of the steps you can take are:

¡》Eat a balanced diet:

A balanced diet is one that provides adequate amounts of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibber.

A balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and prevent diabetes. A balanced diet should also include plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fibber that can protect against cancer.

You should also limit your intake of processed foods, red meat, salt, sugar, and alcohol, which can increase your risk of obesity and cancer.

¡¡》Exercise regularly:

Exercise is any physical activity that improves or maintains your fitness, health, and wellness.

Exercise can help you burn calories, lose weight, strengthen your muscles and bones, improve your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and enhance your mood and mental health.

Exercise can also lower your levels of hormones and inflammation that can cause cancer.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, and also do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.

¡¡¡》Quit smoking:

Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer and death in the world. Smoking can damage the DNA and cells, and introduce more than 7,000 chemicals into the body, some of which are known carcinogens.

Smoking can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections. Smoking can cause lung, oral, throat, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, liver, kidney, bladder, cervical, and blood cancers, among others.

Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of cancer and improve your health and quality of life.

¡¡¡》Get screened:

Screening is a process of testing for diseases or conditions before they cause any symptoms or complications. Screening can help detect cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat and cure.

Screening can also prevent some cancers by removing precancerous lesions or polyps. Some of the common screening tests for cancer are mammography for breast cancer, Pap smear for cervical cancer, colonoscopy for colorectal cancer, and low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) for lung cancer.

You should talk to your doctor about the appropriate screening tests and frequency for you, based on your age, gender, family history, and risk factors.


Obesity and cancer are two of the most serious health problems in the world today. Obesity can increase your risk of developing cancer by affecting your hormones, inflammation, oxidative stress, and epigenetics.

However, you can prevent obesity and cancer by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and getting screened. By taking these steps, you can not only lower your chances of getting cancer, but also improve your overall health and well-being.


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