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A third of cancer cases are related to obesity and dietary choices


For many, cancer is a scary word associated with complex causes like genetics, exposure to radiation and harmful chemicals, among others.

But food and nutrition practitioners, along with other health professionals say that a third of cancer cases are linked to obesity and dietary choices. In a report published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics‘ special theme issue, the health experts drew their conclusions from studies that looked deeper at the relationship between nutrition, obesity, and cancer prevention, treatment, and survival.

A 2016 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that excess body fat raises the risk for 13 types of cancer. Lead investigator Stephen Hursting of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his colleagues found out that “obesity-associated metabolic perturbations” are emerging as key factors in cancers related to excess weight. Hursting adds that evidence suggests that dietary adjustments, like restricting calories, occasional fasting, a low-fat diet and ketogenic diet may reverse some of the effects of obesity. However, more studies are needed to confirm this.

High-standard epidemiologic studies associate obesity with an increased risk of PDAC (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma), one of the deadliest cancers. But many questions have yet to be answered – one of them is the mechanism by which reduced weight and bariatric surgery reduce the number of PDAC cases.

Dr. Guido Eibl of the Department of Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) supported this observation. He said that given the increase in deaths due to PDAC and an expected rise in obesity and diabetes, more research has to be done to comprehend the link between these three health concerns. He also stressed the need to curb PDAC driven by obesity and diabetes.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cynthia Thomson of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, and her team presented the results of their research on the association between baseline dietary energy density (DED) and obesity-associated cancers in more than 90,000 postmenopausal women. They found that DED – the ratio of energy intake to food weight – was linked with a higher risk of obesity-related cancer. The higher risk only applied to women with normal BMI (body mass index).

Thomson considered this relationship between the risk of obesity-related cancer and DED in women who had normal weight to be something new. She explained that the findings suggest that controlling weight alone may not prevent the development of obesity-related cancers in women who consume a high-energy density diet. She adds that higher levels of DED in normal-weight women may lead to metabolic dysregulation that is known to raise the risk of cancer. The good news is DED can be modified through proper nutrition. Diets that prevent cancer can reduce the likelihood that postmenopausal women will suffer from this dreaded disease.

Another study, this time by Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, a professor of nutrition science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her team demonstrated how lifestyle changes help fight cancer. Their research involved 46 cancer survivors aged 60 and above. The cancer survivors were randomized into two groups. One group received a year-long vegetable gardening intervention immediately. The other group was the wait-list control arm.

Investigators found that the gardening intervention group lost weight and became less obese. They also raised their intake of fruit and greens by around one serving a day.

All these prove all over again that lifestyle choices play a big role in our health, including our susceptibility to cancer. The good news is a nutritious diet and a healthy weight are things we can control. This means that our chances of developing a disease – mild or severe – are something that’s largely up to us.

Read Cancer.news for more research surrounding cancer causes and prevention strategies.

Sources include: 

Elsevier.com

Cancer.gov

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