Is Obesity Related To Cancer? (Plus 10 Ways To Prevent Both)
Nearly two-thirds of obesity-related cancers—which include colon, rectum, ovary, and womb cancers—occur in North America and Europe.
Women are at greatest risk. Compared to men, women are twice as likely to develop obesity-related cancer, the most common forms of which are postmenopausal breast, endometrial, and colon cancer.
Disturbingly, if current trends continue, estimates suggest that nearly half of the world's adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030, which will automatically drive up cancer incidence as well.
Latest Data on Obesity-Related Cancer, Worldwide
In all, obesity was associated with 5.4 percent of all new cancers in women (globally) in 2012, and 1.9 percent of cancers in men that same year. When looking at developed versus developing nations, the difference is quite stark.
The vast majority of the food eaten in developed countries is processed, whereas most developing countries still consume a more traditional diet which, combined with other studies on cancer, strongly suggests diet plays a significant role.
The following figures seem to reflect that obesity caused by primarily unprocessed foods appears to be far more benign than obesity caused by processed food:
- Eight percent of all cancers in women in developed nations is associated with obesity, compared to just 1.5 percent in developing countries
- Three percent of all cancers in men in developed nations is associated with obesity, compared to a mere 0.3 percent in developing countries
The global cost of obesity is now at $2 trillion annually, which is nearly as much as the global cost of smoking ($2.1 trillion) and armed violence (including war and terrorism, which also has a global cost of $2.1 trillion).
The costs stemming from obesity are varied. The condition is associated with lost work days and lower productivity, and higher health care costs due to a myriad of related diseases.
Other Potentially Lethal Health Ramifications of Obesity
Cancer certainly isn’t the only disease associated with excess body weight though. Far from it! Diseases attributable to obesity also include but are not limited to the following. Worldwide, obesity is also responsible for about five percent of all deaths each year.
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cancer (breast, endometrial, colon, gallbladder, prostate, kidney)
- Heart disease
- Sleep disorders
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease
- Chronic renal failure
- Lymph edema
- Gallbladder disease
Keep in mind, however, that while obesity is associated the diseases mentioned above, it is not their cause. Obesity is a marker. The underlying problem, linking obesity with all of these health issues, is metabolic dysfunction.
The primary driver of metabolic dysfunction is insulin resistance, primarily caused by excessive sugar/and processed fructose consumption. What this means is that even if you don't yet have clinical signs of metabolic dysfunction, the fact that you're gaining excess weight is a sign that your health is jeopardy.
This is particularly important to consider when it comes to children. Childhood obesity is also on the rise, which implies that cancer rates may be fueled even more—especially among women, whose cancers are often driven by excess estrogen produced by fat cells.
In the US, childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled since 1980. One in five kids is now overweight by age six; 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Recent research warns that obese children are at an increased risk for a number of problems previously relegated to older people, including:
- Liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
What’s Really Fuelling the Obesity Epidemic?
Obesity is not simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. While it is part of the equation, environmental and lifestyle factors appear to play a far more significant role in this trend. Part of the problem is that many people don’t realize they’re affected by these factors, and therefore fail to address them. This includes:
- Overuse of antibiotics in food production and medicine
- Growth-enhancing drugs used in food animals
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides
- Artificial sweeteners
- Aggressive stealth marketing of harmful junk food
Processed foods are the primary culprit, as they’re chockfull of ingredients that both individually and in combination contribute to metabolic dysfunction and hard-to-control weight gain. This includes:
- Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, primarily corn, soy, and sugar beets. GE potatoes also recently received the green-light, so that will be another GE ingredient to watch out for in the near future. Bt corn is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for producing its own internal pesticide. This is clearly not a boon to your health. Other GE varieties are engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of pesticides, which makes them particularly prone to having high amounts of pesticide contamination as well.
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Besides being one of the primary sources of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it’s also a primary source of calories in the US diet. HFCS is even worse than regular sugar from a metabolic standpoint, and is a potent driver of metabolic dysfunction.
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) known to cause heart and cardiovascular disease is made from GE soy that is resistant to pesticide. Besides the hazards of being genetically modified and highly contaminated with pesticides, unfermented soy has also been linked to a number of health problems, including breast cancer. When cooked at high temperatures, vegetable oils also degrade into toxic oxidation products known as cyclic aldehydes, which appear to be even more harmful than trans fats.
- Sugar beets are also genetically engineered, ensuring that even foods sweetened with "regular sugar" fall into a more toxic category, courtesy of elevated pesticide contamination.
Corn syrup, trans fats, and sugar—most of which is genetically engineered and highly contaminated with toxic pesticides—all of these are dietary factors that fuel the epidemic of poor health, starting with excess weight gain. So, if you want to address your weight, and reduce your chances of cancer, you really must take a long hard look at what you’re eating on a daily basis.
10 Tips For Preventing Both Obesity and Cancer
Fortunately, there is much you can do to lower your risk for cancer. Prevention is key however, and maintaining a healthy weight is part of a preventative lifestyle. I believe you can virtually eliminate your risk of cancer and chronic disease, and radically improve your chances of recovering from cancer if you currently have it, by adhering to the following strategies, which will also help you normalize your weight and insulin/leptin sensitivity.
1. Buy Whole Organic Foods, And Cook From ScratchFirst of all, this will automatically reduce your sugar consumption, which is the root cause of most insulin resistance and weight gain. The evidence is also quite clear that if you want to avoid cancer, or you currently have cancer and insulin resistance, you MUST avoid all forms of sugar, especially fructose, which feeds cancer cells and promotes their growth. Make sure your total fructose intake is less than 25 grams per day, or 15 grams if you’re struggling with insulin resistance or have symptoms of insulin resistance (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or heart disease).
If you buy organic produce, you’ll also cut your exposure to pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients, and in ditching processed foods, you’ll automatically avoid artificial sweeteners and harmful processed fats. Speaking of fats, most people need upwards of 50-85 percent healthy fats in their diet for optimal health. Sources of healthy fats to add to your diet include avocados, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw organic dairy, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts and seeds, organic pastured egg yolks, and grass-fed meats.