Obesity to Become Main Cancer Risk

Growing up we always associated smoking with cancer. We’d have the school assemblies to prevent us from lighting up. The packages of cigarettes had images of disgusting gum and tooth disease caused by smoking. And we all knew a relative or loved one that was a smoker and passed away from cancer.

That could all change.

Obesity could overtake smoking as the main cancer risk by 2040 in women and soon after in men.

And with the pandemic this isn’t getting any better. Since this time last year most people have put on a few pounds, are less active and eating more junk food. And when the food delivery services show up in our neighbourhood it’s usually bringing fast food. Combine this with more people quitting smoking and it’s easy to see how obesity will overtake smoking as a greater risk for cancer.

So what’s the big deal with obesity?

Well fat isn’t inert tissue that gets added to the body and has no effects. It doesn’t just sit there quietly but is active. It sends signals to other tissues and organs that affect growth, metabolism and reproductive processes.

When we are obese we are vulnerable to tissue damage and developing tumours. And there are least 12 types of cancer linked to carrying excess weight. Regular exercise is important for cancer prevention specifically breast and colon cancer.

A recent study in the UK involved exercising mice three times per week for 30 minutes. These mice showed lower levels of inflammation, which can lead to the development of tumours. As well, the mice that exercised improved their metabolism, had less fat in their livers and moved more quickly.

In the UK there are 135,000 new cancers per year (about 4 in 10) deemed to be preventable. Exercise can be a great way to reduced the chance of obesity and thus lessen the chance of developing cancer.

Bianchi, A., Marchetti, L., Hall, Z., Lemos, H., Vacca, M., Paish, H., & Wilson, C. L. (2021). Moderate Exercise Inhibits Age-Related Inflammation, Liver Steatosis, Senescence, and Tumorigenesis. The Journal of Immunology206(4), 904-916.

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