Obesity is a condition where an individual has an unhealthy amount of fat in the body and around vital organs. Extra fat in the body leads to unwanted effects of hormone production and growth factors that can raise the risk of several diseases, including cancer. It’s thought that more than 1 in 20 cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

Research has shown that many types of cancers are more common in people who are overweight or obese, including cancers of the breast (in women after the menopause), bowel, womb, esophageal (food pipe), pancreatic, kidney, liver, upper stomach (gastric cardia), gallbladder, ovarian, thyroid, myeloma (a type of blood cancer), and meningioma (a type of brain tumor).

This list includes 2 of the most common types of cancer – breast and bowel cancers – and 3 of the hardest to treat – pancreatic, esophageal and gallbladder cancers.

A person is likely to become obese when his/her caloric intake is higher than the calorie burn through physical activity. The reasons for this imbalance are many and varied. From genetic make up to sedentary lives, environmental factors that may cause reduced caloric burning and current-world life style of long-hour desk jobs and few opportunities and time to exercise, have all contributed towards expanding waistlines and concurrent metabolic illnesses. Most people can reach and stay within healthy weight limits by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly to keep active and fit.



Fat cells in the body are active in the sense that they produce hormones and proteins that are released in the bloodstream and transported around the body. These hormones and proteins affect many functions of the body, and any errors in this function can lead to cancer formation.

Fat cells also attract immune cells to the tissues, which release chemicals that cause long-lasting inflammation, which may in turn lead to cellular structure alteration, leading to cancerous changes.

Excess fat changes the levels of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone in the body (these are fat-soluble hormones). Excessive production of these hormones is likely to lead to increase in reproductive system cancers such as breast, uterus, ovarian and testicular cancers.

Belly fat- fat that accumulates around the waist and gives you an apple shape, is also linked to bowel, kidney, esophageal, pancreatic and breast cancers.


If you are currently overweight or obese, it is best to start by taking steps to lose weight through nutrition and exercise. Aim to lose 5% to 10% of your body weight as your first goal. Although this amount may seem small, research shows that even losing 5% to 10% of your weight is beneficial. Most hospitals and health care organizations have professionals—such as dietitians—on staff who can provide weight management counseling and treatment.

Sometimes nutritional changes and increasing physical activity aren’t enough. But there are other steps you can take. The National Institutes of Health approach to obesity treatment includes:

A change in lifestyle behaviors. First, change behaviors to reduce the amount of food eaten and increase physical activity before considering other weight loss treatments. A registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, clinical psychologist, or doctor who specializes in weight loss can help.

Behavior change support. For many, being overweight or obese is more complex than simply eating too much and exercising too little. It’s important to get support when you are trying to lose weight. Most weight loss programs include sessions with a dietitian or weight loss specialist to help you make healthy lifestyle changes and stick with them over time.

Medications. Weight loss drugs are usually only recommended when a combination of diet, exercise, and behavior change support have not worked. Or, if you have other serious health conditions from being obese.

Surgery. Weight loss surgery, or bariatric surgery, is a term for a variety of procedures that make a person’s stomach smaller. This may be an option for people with a BMI of 40 or higher. Or, for those with a BMI of 35 or higher who have another serious health condition related to obesity.

Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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