Cancer Risk: Being Overweight as Bad as Smoking?

The Los Angeles Times published an article describing how recent studies have found that obesity is almost like smoking, in terms of its connection to cancer. The studies indicate that two out of three adult Americans are at a greater risk of getting a deadly cancer, due to being overweight. This amounts to 150 million Americans at risk because of their body size. Dr. Anne McTiernan, who is Director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle, explains that “Obesity is almost like the new smoking. The effect isn’t as big for most cancers, but it’s so prevalent that it will have a huge impact.”

In 2009 the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) completed a survey that found only 50% of Americans are aware of the connection between body size and the risk of cancer. The AICR also estimated that “every year about 100,000 Americans get a cancer they wouldn’t have gotten if they had kept their weight in check. About 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% in women could be avoided by this same restraint.”

In another study, scientists at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta examined cancer death rates for men and women in five weight categories: healthy (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9); overweight (BMI, 25 to 29.9); and three levels beyond: “obese” (BMI, 30 to 34.9), “severely obese” (BMI, 35 to 39.9) and “morbidly obese” (BMI, 40 or more). They found that all cancers combined as a group increased with BMI. Specifically, morbidly obese men had 52% higher rate of death and morbidly obese women had a 62% higher rate of death.

Finally, a promising study in 2009 found that women who had bariatric surgery not only lost weight, but reduced their cancer risk by 40%.

Read the full article here.

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