Obesity and cancer

By Dr Felicia Adderley

Obesity affects many people worldwide. In fact, 1.1 billion adults and 10 per cent of children are either overweight or obese. As for us in the Bahamas, the obesity rate is an alarming 42.5 per cent in women and 29.7 per cent in men.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A commonly used measure of overweight and obesity is body mass index or BMI.

BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height used to classify a person as underweight, healthy, overweight, obese or extremely obese. A BMI of 25-29 is considered overweight and 30 or more is considered obese.

Excess body weight is strongly linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and some cancers. After tobacco use, obesity is the second most contributing factor to developing cancer. Similar to tobacco use, our diet and physical activity level are modifiable- things that we control and thus factors we can change if we choose to. Obesity is responsible for cancer death in 14 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women.

The cancers most often linked to obesity include colon, esophageal, endometrial, kidney and postmenopausal breast cancers.

In men, weight gain causes increased risk of colon and esophageal cancer and in women, an increase in post menopausal breast cancer of 30-50 per cent. Renal cell or kidney cancer is 1.5-3x higher in the overweight and obese when compared to people of a healthy weight. In a 40-year-old obese person, life expectancy is reduced by seven years.

Cancer survivors that have an increased weight at time of diagnosis tend to have poor breast cancer outcomes. An increase in weight by more than 2kg/m after being diagnosed increases the relative risk for death in the nine years following breast cancer compared to women that maintain a healthy weight. Weight loss after menopause significantly reduces the chance of post menopausal breast cancer.

It’s time to make a change. Better eating habits and engaging in more physical activity as a part of weight management could reduce the chance of developing cancer and add years to one’s lifespan. Two important healthy eating habits that should be established are eating breakfast daily and having at least one serving of fruit daily also.

150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise aerobic physical activity per week can reduce risk of breast and colon cancer by 21 per cent to 25 per cent.

That’s just 30 minutes five times a week or 50 minutes three times a week. It doesn’t have to cause any expense at all. You can jog/run in the neighbourhood or at the local park. Or if you prefer take a class at a local gym. Having an accountability partner helps keep you consistent and gives you that extra push when your resolve falters.

Don’t try to overwhelm yourself by changing everything at once. Make one lifestyle change at a time. Perhaps remove soda and sugary drinks from your diet as a first step. Then reduce how often you eat rice or substitute wheat bread for white. The other part of course involves us moving more. Park a little further away from the entrance to the grocery store or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

It’s really about making better choices and making steps towards that healthier lifestyle. We don’t have to completely deprive ourselves of the things we like, but instead enjoy them in moderation. A little change can go a long way.

• For further information or inquiries, contact Dr Felicia Adderley at Adderley Physiotherapy, 8th Terrace Centreville, at 326-3052, via e-mail adderleypt@gmail.com, visit Adderley Physiotherapy on Facebook, Twitter (@Adderley Physio) and Instagram (@adderleypt) for more information.


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