New Study: Obesity, Cancer, and Young People

Written by: Emma Squillace

You may have seen recent articles discussing a study which showed that the incidence of some cancers are on the rise in young adults. Cancer overall has many risk factors including genetics, smoking, alcohol consumption, sun exposure, radiation, hormones, and the foods you eat. We also know that obesity is linked to a higher rate of some, but not all, cancers. There are currently about 12 types of cancer that we know are linked to obesity. This new study found that the risk of developing 6 of them is increasing in adults aged 25 to 49. News like this is significantly concerning, considering more than one third of adults in the US are obese, and more than another one third are overweight. At this point, almost 70% of US adults are in the categories of overweight or obese according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Cancer in young adults

The majority of people who are diagnosed with cancer are older adults. Specifically the age range where we see the most new cancer cases is age 65 – 74, according to the National Cancer Institutes. For those in their 20s and 30s, we have traditionally seen much lower rates of cancer. However, research like this new study, published in The Lancet, shows that the age ranges for cancer diagnoses is shifting.

Cancer and obesity

There are 12 types of cancer that we know are linked with obesity. Of these types, 6 of them are on the rise when we look at diagnosis rates in people aged 25 – 49. Those 6 types are: uterine, kidney, gallbladder, multiple myeloma, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer. Obesity is also linked to esophageal adenocarcinoma, cancer of the upper stomach, liver cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Why excess fat may be tied to cancer

While we are clear that there is a link between obesity in cancer, scientists are less clear of the exact reason. It is believed that there is a certain type fat, called visceral fat, that is the link. Visceral fat is fat that surrounds your organs. If you have excess visceral fat, these fat cells may not get enough oxygen. This in turn can lead to inflammation, which is believed to be the link between excess fat and cancer. You may hear about inflammation in the case of a sore tooth or a healing wound. This type of short-term inflammation is a natural, and generally helpful, response by your body. The dangerous type of inflammation is the long term, or chronic, inflammation.

How to combat obesity-related cancer

In many cases, the earlier you are able to lose weight, the better. If you have spent years unable to get to a range considered “normal weight”, it is time learn about your surgical and non-surgical treatment options. While some think of weight loss as a cosmetic improvement, there is substantial evidence that it is truly a tool that can positively affect many areas of your health. A normal body weight range is associated with lower risk of these 12 cancers, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, less risk of death from all causes, and higher quality of life.

Although it is easy to say that you can improve your health with diet and exercise, the reality of losing a substantial amount of weight through dieting is much more tricky. People who need to lose 50 pounds or more may be at a significant advantage if they have bariatric surgery. These surgeries are not only safe and effective for weight loss, but often lead to positive changes in health. If you are interested in talking about how bariatric surgery may improve your health, please reach out to us at 855-690-0565.

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