Slimming Down Your Cancer Risk

Obesity in women tied to cancer risk increase

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Having a healthy weight is a well-known way to help maintain good heart health, but new evidence suggests that, in women, staying slim could cut cancer risk.

A new report from a United Kingdom (UK) cancer charity found that obese women had an increased risk for certain cancers.

“We know that our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and other aspects of our lives, many of which we can control — helping people understand how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer in the first place remains crucial in tackling the disease," said Julie Sharp, MD, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, the group behind the report, in a news release.

Now evidence is mounting that excess weight is one of these controllable factors tied to cancer risk.

Cancer Research UK reported that, based on new data, obesity in women seems tied to the risk for several kinds of cancer, called "bodyweight-linked cancers" — such as bowel cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Cancer Research UK estimated that out of every 1,000 obese women, 274 will develop a bodyweight-linked cancer at some point during their lives. The same was only true for 194 out of 1,000 healthy-weight women.

The group also reported that obese women are thought to have a nearly 1 in 4 risk of developing one of these bodyweight-linked cancers, which also include gallbladder, uterine, kidney and esophageal cancers.

"There are different ways that obesity could increase the risk of cancer, and one possibility is that it is linked to a fat cell’s production of hormones — especially [estrogen]. This hormone is thought to fuel the development of cancer," according to Cancer Research UK.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a third of adults in the US are obese. Obese people are also at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Dr. Sharp explained that though weight loss can seem overwhelming, even small steps are important.

“Losing weight isn’t easy, but you don’t have to join a gym and run miles every day or give up your favourite food forever. Just making small changes that you can maintain in the long term can have a real impact," Dr. Sharp said. "To get started try getting off the bus a stop earlier and cutting down on fatty and sugary foods. Losing weight takes time so gradually build on these to achieve a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain."

This new data was released March 16 by Cancer Research UK. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 16, 2015
Last Updated:
March 17, 2015