Linking Fat and Cancer

Obesity linked to gastric and esophageal cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Changing characteristics of people in the last century in the western world have had some unlikely effects. Rising levels of gastric cancer, for example, caused one researcher to examine whether obesity could be the cause.

A group from North Ireland's Queen's University Belfast published an overall analysis of obesity and digestive tract cancers, looking at cancers both in the stomach and throat.

"Ask your doctor about how to get started on long term, effective weight loss."

Researchers concluded that absolutely obesity indicated higher chances of both forms of cancer, but surprisingly the effect was secondary to the local amount of fat carried on the belly, which turned out to be even more important.

Yet for all the problems, fat has several fascinating characteristics. The chemical properties of the molecule allow many odd chemicals to remain in the body for a long time, especially biologically significant one.

Entire classes of pesticides, carcinogens and various kinds of endocrine disrupters such as  BPA which was in the news last year.

Studies in animals have shown that the higher up a food chain a creature is, the more chemicals accumulate in the body during their lifetime.

Fat is an essentially vital component of the body, however. The brain is largely fat by composition. Every neuron is coated in a fine layer of cholesterol.

Without fat the transmission of electricity from the brain to every muscle and the signaling network throughout the body would stop working immediately.

Study design used data from 218,854 participants in the British NIH–AARP clinical trial, which has been made available for interested parties. From the 569 cases of gastric or esophageal cancer identified, correlation with the level of obesity in the individual was made.

Findings included the observation that the true worst predicting factor was for abdominal fat. Higher levels of abdominal fat were more important as a negative finding even if the patient was not overweight.

Researchers in other work have concluded that the fat in the abdominal area acts like a signaling system, with this regional fat both producing and responding to natural levels of hormones that affect levels of stress.

The findings are complex and not fully understood, but more work remains to be done in this field.

Research data was published in the journal Gut.

The authors disclosed no financial conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 5, 2012
Last Updated:
May 7, 2012