Tipping the Scales: Controlling Your Weight to Lower Cancer Risk

Overweight and obese patients are at a higher risk of getting at least 13 different types of cancer, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, kidney cancer, and liver cancer. 

Overweight vs. Obese: What’s the Difference?  

Overweight and obese are terms that are often interchanged, however, there is a marked difference. A healthy weight can generally be determined using a person’s current height and weight, but there are other factors to consider, such as bone, muscle, and body water content. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rely on the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a screening tool to determine if a person is overweight or obese. The higher a person’s BMI, the higher the body fat level. A BMI of 25.0 – 30 is within the overweight range, while a BMI of 30.0 or higher is considered obese.  

Body Weight and Cancer Risk 

Excess weight has been linked to an increased risk of cancer because fat accumulation can impact normal body function. Being overweight or obese can cause inflammation and increase hormone levels that fuel abnormal cell growth. When your body has visceral fat in excess, there’s not much room for oxygen, which triggers inflammation. Long-term inflammation causes damage to the body, impairing its ability to control the rate that cells reproduce. And when cells multiply uncontrollably, tumors are more likely to form. Obesity has also been observed to impact insulin and sex hormone levels, both of which can trigger cancer cell production. 

Managing Your Weight to Reduce Cancer Risk 

Losing weight should not be your sole goal when setting out on a new health protocol to reduce cancer risk. Focusing entirely on losing pounds can lead to malnutrition, which leads to various adverse effects, including diminished muscle and tissue mass, decreased mobility, and increased risk for respiratory infection. Rather, a healthy weight should be achieved by making healthier food choices and engaging in regular physical activity. 

To achieve a healthy weight through diet, stay within your daily calorie needs. Follow a healthy, balanced diet plan that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. Healthy proteins include lean meats, seafood, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs. Avoid saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol. Also, limit sugars and sodium. 

Regular exercise complements a healthy diet in weight management. However, it’s important to achieve the right calorie deficit. When you burn more calories each day than what you consume, your body will tap into your excess stored fat, resulting in weight loss. But once you achieve a healthy weight, the goal should switch to maintaining to avoid becoming underweight. Therefore, before committing to an exercise regimen, it’s necessary to understand the unique requirements of your weight, height, and BMI as outlined above. 

At Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.