The death trap
Obesity is responsible for 20% of cancer deaths in women and 14% in men 1. The death rate increases 10% for every 5 unit increase in BMI (Body Mass Index) 2. 40% of the cancers diagnosed since 2014 are associated with obesity. Obesity is the second most common preventable cause of cancer after tobacco use.
Obesity is associated with increase rate of treatment complications in cancer patients. Among cancer survivors, obesity worsens the quality of life, recurrence, spread of the disease to the other parts of the body, and survival 3, 4.
The 13 cancers fast-tracked by obesity
A massive study 5 of 52.4 lakh patients’ data found that obesity is associated with 10 different cancers: Uterus (with 40.8% of yearly new cases linked to obesity), Gallbladder (20.3%), Kidney (16.6%), Liver (15.6%), Colon (11.1%), Cervix (7.5%), Ovaries (7.3%), Blood cancer (6.3%), Postmenopausal Breast (5.1%), and Thyroid (1.9%).
The newer studies have found that three more cancers i.e., Food Pipe 6, Pancreas 7, and a type of Brain Cancer (Meningioma) 8 too are linked with obesity 9.
How Does Obesity Cause Cancer?
Too much body fat leads to chronic inflammation. This inflammation causes pancreas to produce more insulin. Extra fat cells also make extra oestrogen - another hormone. These extra hormones trigger body cells to divide more, and these new cells can result in cancerous tumours.
Escaping The Death Trap
“The good news is that the enhanced cancer risk posed by obesity can be reduced & managed by treating the root cause i.e. obesity”
The first step is to understand what is obesity. Obesity is not a cosmetic condition as commonly perceived. It’s a complex, progressive and multifactorial disease that needs expert medical help to treat, just like cancer.
Obesity is determined by BMI (Body Mass Index), which measures body weight in relation to height.
World Health Organization (WHO) considers a BMI more than 30 as Class 1 obesity 10. BMI above 35 is Class II- serious obesity, and BMI above 40 is class III- severe obesity. 11.
Most patients with obesity who try diet and exercise, enjoy initial success, and then may experience weight regain. This may not be due to their lack of willpower or the wrong diet, but due to hormonal imbalance and genetic predisposition.
There is documented observation that for an obesity patient with a BMI greater than 35, the chances of reaching a normal body weight for a lasting period of time with diet and exercise alone is less than 1% 12.
If you are fighting class II obesity and unable to reverse it, minimally invasive bariatric weight-loss surgery might be an option. In fact International Diabetic Federation guidelines recommend surgery for uncontrolled diabetes with good medical management.
Does bariatric weight-loss surgery also lower the cancer risk?
A 12-year follow-up study that compared 6596 patients who underwent gastric bypass bariatric surgery with 9442 severe obesity patients who did not undergo bariatric surgery found that total cancer incidence in the bariatric surgery group was significantly lower compared to that of non-bariatric group 13.
A 11-year follow-up study of 2010 bariatric surgery patients compared with 2037 obesity patients who didn’t undergo bariatric surgery found that bariatric surgery group had reduced cancer incidence - particularly in women 14.
Talk to the experts
According to experts during Covid times online consultation for obesity management have increased significantly.
Morbid obesity can be treated efficiently by bariatric surgery with lasting results along with significantly reducing cancer risk. The time to act against it is NOW!