The link between body fat and cancer has been known for some time, but according to recent research by the World Health Organization, that list is bigger than initial thought. Those who are overweight increase their risk of as many as 13 cancers.

What types of cancer?

The thirteen types of cancer are: esophageal cancer, cancer at the entrance of the stomach, colon cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancerbreast cancer in postmenopausal women, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, kidney cancer, meningioma (a certain type of brain tumor), thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma (a certain form of blood cancer).

The risk factor of obesity to develop cancer depends on the type of cancer: obese people are five times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than people of normal weight. In breast cancer, on the other hand, obesity plays a minimal role: you are 10% more at risk if you are overweight.

How does obesity increase the risk of cancer?

In obese people, various mechanisms are at work that can lead to cancer. For example, they often have low-grade chronic inflammation in their body that can affect the DNA over time, which can lead to cancer. In addition, adipose tissue produces estrogen, and high estrogen levels increase the risk of some cancers. In addition, obese people have elevated insulin levels in their blood. This causes insulin resistance and increases the risk of cancer of the colon, kidneys, prostate and uterus. Research also shows that fat around the waist can encourage the body to produce ‘growth hormones’. If someone has many of these hormones, it can lead to a greater cancer risk.

How do you determine if you are overweight?

In addition to cancer, obesity also increases the risk of other conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is therefore important to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risks. You are overweight if you have a Body Mass Index or BMI higher than 25. If your BMI exceeds 30, you are obese. With a BMI of 25 or more, your risk of cancer is higher, but too much abdominal fat due to local body fat can also increase the risk of developing, regardless of your body weight. Fortunately, the opposite also applies: a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of cancer by up to 30%.

Serena Page

A journalism student at the University of Florida, Serena writes mostly about health and health-related subjects. On her time off, she enjoys binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix or going on a weekend get-away.