Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar     Subscribe     Contact Us    


Reducing Risk by Rethinking Weight


 

The Link between Obesity and Cancer

Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea - the list of health concerns linked to obesity is long and well known. The connection between cancer and weight, however, still takes many by surprise ... including some healthcare providers.


Nigel Brockton, PhD

Nigel Brockton, PhD, director of Research for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), recently returned from the annual Obesity Week Conference, a joint meeting of The Obesity Society and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Attending numerous scientific sessions, Brockton said the defining moment for him was when cancer researcher Stephen Hursting, PhD, MPH, simply and compellingly stated: "We need to stop asking, 'Is obesity a risk factor for cancer?' Yes. It is. Now we need to focus on how to reduce the impact of obesity on cancer risk and outcomes."

Brockton added the research community has spent the last few decades looking at the link between weight and cancer. "We now know 11 cancer sites where obesity is strongly associated with risk," he said.

Research has provided sound evidence that overweight and obesity directly influence risk for esophageal, liver, kidney, stomach, colorectal, advanced prostate, post-menopausal breast, gallbladder, pancreatic, ovarian, and endometrial cancers. Additionally, an October 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Associated with Overweight and Obesity - United States, 2005-2014) found increasing rates of most cancers associated with overweight and obesity, with the exception of colorectal cancer. From 2005-2014, incidence rates of cancers not known to be related to weight declined by 13 percent, but cancers linked to overweight and obesity rose by 7 percent during that timeframe when excluding colorectal cancer (which saw a significant decrease of 23 percent, possibly tied to increased screening).

Although not new knowledge, Brockton said it's important to remember fat tissue is metabolically active and affects the whole body. "It's not this sort of inert, storage substance," he pointed out. "Excess adipose tissue ... fat tissue ... is a major source of hormones and growth factors in the body."


More Research Needed

While research has clearly uncovered ties to cancer, not all results have been as expected. The Continuous Update Project (CUP), a joint effort of AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), has found being overweight between the ages of 18-30 actually has a slight protective factor when it comes to pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. "But from a public health point of view, it's a very tricky message to navigate," noted Brockton, adding the research also shows that women who continue to be overweight past 30 increase their risk for the cancer type.


Alice Bender, MS, RDN

Alice Bender, MS, RDN, director for Nutrition Programs at AICR, pointed out significantly improved treatments for breast cancer mean women have to consider other health concerns that come along with weight gain that far outweigh any slight protective gain. "Many survivors don't die from recurrence of breast cancer but from heart disease," she said of the reality for many women. "And we know that losing weight will help with those health outcomes."

Other areas that need to be explored when it comes to weight and cancer research include residual effects of losing weight on prevention, active treatment and survival. Similarly, Brockton said differences between the impact of being overweight vs. obese need to be more thoroughly vetted and stratified by cancer site.

"In overweight and obesity, we don't know if being formerly obese has the same effect as being formerly a smoker," he pointed out. "We need more research done, and the CUP reports have helped identify which aspects we need to address more carefully."

Bender noted results are beginning to be published from researchers who have put the AICR/WCRF's 10 recommendations for cancer prevention (see box) to the test with promising results. Since the release of the evidence-based steps, researchers have analyzed the impact on populations in ongoing studies of diet, activity and disease risk. Consistently, the findings have shown adherence to the AICR recommendations cuts cancer risk, improves the health of cancer survivors and protects against other chronic diseases.

And new evidence is coming online all the time. "In our latest CUP report on colorectal cancer, whole grains stood out with particularly strong evidence of decreasing risk," she said.


Empowering Patients & Providers

Despite the established evidence that compels providers to enhance patient education on the relationship between weight and cancer, there remains a disconnect across the country.

"We know that surveys find half of Americans are not aware of the link between obesity and cancer risks," said Bender.

Providers, she continued, could help bridge the gap. "It's a really tough conversation to have, but we help equip doctors and healthcare providers to know how to start those conversations," she said, noting AICR has brochures, infographics, and other helpful tools to get the ball rolling.

Brockton added, "It's important for healthcare providers to know that second to smoking, obesity is the most important lifestyle issue for preventing cancer." He continued, "I think it's important to position it in a way that empowers the patient to make those changes."

Bender said AICR also has tools to do just that. The aicr.org website includes a quiz to assess current diet, information on establishing a cancer-protective diet, nutrition facts, healthy recipes and easy-to-follow information on the positive impact of phytochemicals in food and the negative effects of too much processed meat, sugar and alcohol.

Twice a year, Bender continued, the organization hosts 'The New American Plate Challenge," a 12-week online program that encourages participants to fill two-thirds of the plate with plant-based foods and only one-third or less with food from animals. In addition, there are a series of weekly challenges to encourage healthier eating and increased physical activity.

The next round starts February 2018. By participating in the fun, interactive cancer prevention challenge, Bender concluded, "You are well on your way to a diet that can lower your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases."

Ten Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day and limit sedentary habits.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
  • Limit consumption of red meats and avoid processed meats.
  • If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.
  • Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with sodium.
  • Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
  • For new moms, it's best to breastfeed exclusively for up to six months and then add other liquids and foods.
  • For cancer survivors, follow the recommendations for cancer prevention after concluding treatment.

And a bonus rule for all - don't smoke or chew tobacco.

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

WEB:

American Institute for Cancer Research

Recent Studies on AIRC Ten Recommendations for Cancer Prevention Impact

AICR Ten Recommendations

CDC Vital Signs Study

 
Share:

Related Articles:


Recent Articles

Bipartisan Group of Senate Health Committee Members Introduce Bill to Spur Development of New Non-Addictive Painkiller

Read More

There's a New Bipartisan Budget & Most Healthcare Organizations are Happy

Read More

AHA Supportive of Bill Addressing Community Rights to Set Smoking Policy

Preemption Repeal a Breath of Fresh Air for Tennessee: The fate of local smoking ordinances impacting the secondhand smoke Tennesseans breathe may finally be given to communities at the local level. Municipalities throughout Tennessee would be allowed to craft their own local smoking policies protecting the health of citizens through a bill making its way through the Tennessee Legislature.

Read More

Healthcare Collaboration

Key healthcare associations and payer organizations look to simplify the pre-authorization process with a recently released consensus statement outlining key areas for improvement.

Read More

The Battle over 340B

The battle over 340B continues as hospitals serving some of the nation's most vulnerable patients worry what will happen if $1.6 billion in cuts go through.

Read More

Position on Governor Haslam's TN Together Initiative

The Tennessee Medical Association Board of Trustees has adopted the following position on Governor Haslam's TN Together plan for addressing the state's opioid abuse epidemic.

Read More

Doctors Aim for Another Big Year on Capitol Hill

With the 2018 legislative session in full swing, TMA is ready to advocate on behalf of its more than 9,000 physician members.

Read More

DOJ Signals New Approach to Frivolous Qui Tam Actions

The Department of Justice recently signaled a possible move toward dismissing more qui tam cases deemed to be meritless.

Read More

Wall Street Weighs In for 2018

Top Wall Street analysts shared their industry predictions for 2018 at the Nashville Health Care Council signature event.

Read More

The Impact of Clinical Trials in Tennessee

With nearly 1,000 clinical trials in the state, a new study finds biopharma research supports 52,000 jobs in Tennessee and ads $11.7 billion to the economy.

Read More

Email Print
 
 

 

 


Tags:
AICR, Alice Bender, American Institute for Cancer Research, Cancer Risk, New American Plate Challenge, Nigel Brockton, Obesity, Obesity Week, Overweight
Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: