What is the Connection Between Obesity and Cancer?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
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Obesity and cancer have are linked in more than one way. Studies have shown that those who have excess body fat are more at risk for developing certain types of cancer than those who are a healthy weight. Different types of cancer seem to respond differently to excess body weight, and it sometimes also depends on the age of a person. It is also true that those who are severely overweight appear to consume more foods and other substances which have been found to contribute to various cancers.

One of the links between obesity and cancer involves the consumption of foods which may contribute to disease and the lack of foods which help fight cancer. Most obese individuals do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and they often do not get enough fiber in their diets. They are also more likely to eat foods that are high in refined sugars and carbohydrates, both of which have been linked to high insulin levels and other cancer causing reactions.

Definitive links have been found between obesity and cancer of the breasts, colon, kidneys, and reproductive organs. The exact causes of this vary depending on the type of cancer. The mechanisms which cause cancers in overweight individuals is not always entirely understood. It is likely due to the alterations of hormones and other chemicals amongst the obese which cause the most issues.


The link between obesity and cancer of the breast is a strong one, although it seems to affect postmenopausal women more so than younger women. There is no recorded link between early onset breast cancer and obesity, but women who are obese in their postmenopausal years are at an increased risk of developing the disease. The cause is likely related to production of estrogen in the fat cells because this substance may fuel the growth of estrogen dependent tumors.

Obesity and cancer of the colon have also been heavily linked. This may be because those who eat less fiber and more high-toxin foods are ingesting more chemicals which stay in the body longer than those who eat a healthier diet. Being overweight has also been linked to kidney and endometrial cancers, although the exact reasons why are poorly understood and have not been thoroughly studied.

Since obesity can lead to a myriad of health issues, it is advised that patients maintain a healthy weight in order to avoid them. Being overweight can cause heart disease, fatty liver, diabetes, cancer, and it puts added strain on the bones and muscles. Prevention for obesity includes maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan. Most individuals can safely engage in some sort of exercise at least three days per week, although five days of physical activity lasting 45 minutes or longer is ideal.



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