Obesity- A Cancer-Enhancing Risk Factor


Being obese makes a roadway towards various illness and diseases. One of the fatal diseases is cancer. Obesity promotes many health risks including cancer. Being fat raises chances of cancer death later in life.

A study published in The New England Journal Of Medicine revealed that losing weight can prevent more than 90,000 deaths from cancer.

What is Obesity?:

An abnormal presentation of the body in which a person faces unhealthy and high proportion of body fat/mass.

To measure obesity, a scale is commonly used by the researchers called Body Mass Index (BMI). It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by their height. It is the most accurate way to measure obesity. The normal BMI score is between 21 and 23 kg/m2 (According to the Current recommendations from the Public Health Goals of the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF)

Insight of Relation Of Obesity With Cancer:

Studies conducted have explored why obesity has led to an increase in cancer risk and growth of cancer cells. Obese people have more fat tissue than normal people, and that is why they produce more hormones that may result in the growth of cancer cells. Excess body fat promotes:

  1. Insulin-like-growth factor-1, a cancer-enhancing hormone. High levels of insulin-like-growth factor-1 cause cells to grow faster, leading to a cancerous condition.  
  2. It also affects immune system function and chronic low level or subacute inflammation
  3. Levels of peculiar hormones like insulin and estrogen
  4. It also affects the proteins influencing the way our body uses some hormones like sex hormone-binding globulin

The timing may also affect the cancer risk. Studies suggest the following factors responsible for affecting your cancer risk:

  • High birth weight
  • More weight gain in childhood or adulthood is also one reason of an increase in cancer risk. For example, most women who are obese as a teenager are more prone to develop ovarian cancer before menopause.
  • Losing and gaining weight again (weight cycling) may also be a risk factor for cancer

Hence, the significance of maintaining a healthy weight is associated with a decrease in the majority of diseases and illness including cancer.

Biological Mechanism Related Abdominal Obesity to Cancer Susceptibility:

The mechanisms that may foster cancer occurrence or progression in the obese or overweight people are usually classified into two types. They can be:

  • Universal in nature
  • Direct in nature

They apply to the majority of tumors and can be site specific. Several synthesis of mechanism may take place differently in different people:


Studies and experiments suggest that alterations in the quality of diet and caloric intake can significantly impact the risk of cancer progression and development. But limited intake of long-term calorie decreases the cancer incidence. High fiber cereal diet, high intake of fruit and vegetables and low carbohydrate insulin-inhibiting diet is also said to be good in limiting cancer risk. A study also confirmed that low vitamin D handles 20% increase in cancer risk following increased BMI (Bone Mass Index)

Physical Activity:

A brisk walk, exercise, and other physical activities at home can prevent the incidence of diseases including breast, colon and endometrial cancer in particular.

Insulin Resistance:

Obesity and adiposity (high fatty tissue) are directly associated with insulin resistance that is compensated for pancreatic insulin secretion, and it results in hyperinsulinemia. These elevated insulin levels served as faster growth and increased aggression of following cancers:

  • Colorectal
  • pancreatic
  • Liver
  • Postmenopausal Breast Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer

Sex Hormones:

In women, BMI (Bone Mass Index) is correlated with:

  • Breast
  • Endometrial

Since, in cancer development, an increase in circulating sex steroids from obesity is a well-known mechanism.

Chronic Inflammation:

A chronic inflammatory response is an inclination towards the obesity that further initiates and promotes cancer. In chronic low inflammation, the energy expenditure is lowered, and the energy is conserved leading to obesity.

Obesity-Induced Hypoxia:

There is a transcription factor (HIF-1α) that is related with increased metastatic spread and may lead to melanoma (cancer of skin)

Oxidative Stress:

Increased oxidative damage to the DNA can increase the risk of cancer. Systemic oxidative stress is increased.

Relationship Of Certain Cancers With Obesity:

There are some cancers that are closely related to weight. Excessive fat is associated with enhancing cancer risks of:

  • The breast
  • Uterus
  • Colon and rectum
  • Kidney
  • Esophagus
  • Gallbladder
  • Endometrium
  • Pancreatic

Suggestions To Maintaining A Healthy Body Weight And How It Decreases Cancer Risk:

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important to overall health. People with obesity face many health challenges. Exercise, good nutrition, and lifestyle changes are ways to lose weight and improve health.

Start with an aim to lose 5 to 10% of body weight. Proper physiotherapy exercises can help lose weight along with a good nutritional plan. Otherwise, medication or surgery is the next option.

Certain hormones like insulin, androgens and estrogens, decrease after losing weight that help in reducing the cancer risk.


Being overweight or obesity is responsible for about 20% of malignancies. Although, lifestyle changes and exercise can greatly reduce the susceptibility to cancer. Hence, there is a strong relation of obesity with cancer.


  1. Obesity: A risk factor for certain types of cancer
  2. Obesity- a major risk factor of cancer
  3. Obesity, weight and cancer
  4. Does body weight affect cancer
  5. Body weight- facts and evidence
  6. Obesity and cancer risk
  7. Does being overweight cause risk factor of cancer


Dr. Adem Gunes
Dr. Adem Gunes has built the world’s largest database of scientifically tested natural substances with proven effects in cancer treatments via years of research in Austria. He is also the co-founder of the first Austrian hyperthermia center. Now, Dr. Adem works closely with cancer patients from around the world, to recommend them a complementary cancer clinic or to create a personalized care plan for patients to follow at home.
Visit Dr. Adem website: http://www.dr-adem.com/ or follow his facebook page for regular updates : https://www.facebook.com/doctorademgunes