Is There an Association Between Body Fat and Cancer Risk?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), excess body fat is a cause of approximately 132,800 U.S. cancer cases every year.  There is significant research evidence that excess body fat increases the risk for 11 cancers, most notably, cancers of the esophagus, kidney, colon, rectum, breast, pancreas, and endometrium.  There is also sufficient evidence of increased risk for cancers of the liver, stomach, gall bladder, and ovaries associated with excess weight, according to the AICR.

The mechanism of this increased risk is attributed to the excess body fat triggering increased estrogen production which increases cell production.  Increased cell production, as experienced by those especially with an “apple” shape or a waist circumference that exceeds that of the hips, means a greater likelihood that cancers can develop and grow.

Excess body fat can also trigger an inflammatory response in the body.

So, to reduce body fat and cancers associated with it, the AICR recommends:

  • Avoid sugar drinks and limit intake of calorie-dense foods.

  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes such as beans

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes/day which, even in normal weight individuals, can help to reduce the likelihood of developing certain cancers