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Cancer risk: Obesity

Because of the overwhelming amount of overweight and obese Americans, there has been a recent uptick in health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Here’s what you need to know about your weight, obesity and cancer risk.

The reason

Approximately two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, says the Weight-control Information Network, or WIN. Being overweight and obesity contribute to many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and even several types of cancers. Your BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a way to classify individuals into weight classes including underweight, healthy, overweight and obese. Though BMI does not take into consideration your muscle mass or measure body fat directly, says the CDC, it is reliable for most individuals.

Calculate your bmi

To calculate your BMI:

  • Divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches, squared.
  • Multiply the answer by 703.
  • Anything 18.5 and below is considered underweight, 18.5 to 24.9 is healthy, 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight and anything 30 and above is considered obese.

BMI may not be accurate if you are very muscular, of if you are trying to calculate a child or teenager’s BMI. Once you calculate your BMI, you can use this as a springboard to talk with your health care provider about an appropriate weight for your height.

obesity and cancer Risk

According to the National Cancer Institute, or NCI, obesity has been associated with various types of cancer, including breast (in postmenopausal women), colon, endometrium, kidney and esophagus. Some studies have also linked obesity with pancreas, gall bladder and ovarian cancers, but more research needs to be done. The NCI estimates that approximately 14 percent of deaths from cancer in men and 20 percent of cancer deaths in women are due to being overweight or obese.

Obesity can cause increases in estrogen and insulin levels, which may contribute to the growth of certain tumors, as well as abdominal fat, a risk factor for some cancers. Diets high in fat and animal products have been linked to various kinds of cancers, and these diets also help contribute to unhealthy weight gain and high BMI.

Get healthy

Preventing excess weight gain before it occurs is ideal, but if you are overweight or obese, even losing five to ten pounds can make a difference, says the NCI. Physical activity not only helps you lose weight, but also reduces the risk of colon and breast cancers. Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, as well as eating whole grains and minimizing sugar intake will not only help you maintain your weight, but also promote overall health. While eating well and staying at an appropriate weight will not prevent all cancers, it can certainly reduce your risk of some cancers and other diseases.

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