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The link between obesity and cancer

Bryn Mawr Hospital October 4, 2017 Wellness Articles

According to a new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overweight and obesity have been linked to an increased risk for 13 different types of cancers: brain cancer, multiple myeloma, postmenopausal breast cancer, and cancers of the esophagus, thyroid, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon and rectum.

Combined, these cancers account for 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States from 2005-2014.

“Many people are surprised to learn that obesity can actually increase your cancer risk. Instead, they associate it with issues like diabetes or heart disease,” says Richard Ing, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of the Bariatric Center at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health. “Excess weight can be just as much of a cancer risk factor as tobacco or alcohol use.”

Managing your risk

While this new research is sobering, remember: a little extra weight around your waistline doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be diagnosed with cancer. More research is needed to understand exactly how excess weight can impact cancer risk. Still, Dr. Ing reminds people that the sooner you can take control of your weight, the better.

“As we age, it becomes more difficult to manage our weight and our cancer risk increases. Adopting healthy eating habits or working with your doctor or a dietitian to map out a nutrition plan can help you manage your weight and control your cancer risk,” he explains.

Start by making small changes. If it’s been a year or more since your last doctor’s visit, make an appointment with your primary care doctor for a well visit. You’ll get a chance to talk to your doctor about your health questions, plus the latest on your weight, height, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol—which can provide some insight as to whether or not you’re at a healthy weight.

Once you and your doctor do determine a healthy weight for you, you can work together to develop a nutrition plan. And remember: You don’t have to do it alone!

“With the help of online message boards and weight loss apps like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal, there are online communities of people who have similar goals,” says Dr. Ing.

Exercise is important, too. If it’s been awhile since you hit the gym, start small. Promise yourself that you’ll start to work out on the weekends or make a date with a friend twice a week for 45-minute workouts. From there, you can grow your routine based on the activities you enjoy.

Struggling to lose weight despite dieting and exercise? Join us for one of our upcoming bariatric surgery information sessions at our health centers in Newtown Square, Broomall and Exton Square to determine whether or not weight loss surgery is right for you.