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Strong Obesity and Cancer Link Now Absolutely Confirmed

Excess weight can now officially be added to the growing number of factors that contribute to cancer, according to the UK's Million Women Study.

The study, which included more than 1 million UK women, found that 5 percent of all cancers in the UK -- or about 6,000 cases each year -- are caused by being overweight or obese.


It's estimated that 90,000 cancer deaths could be prevented every year in the United States if Americans maintained healthy weights.

The team found that increasing body mass index (BMI, a standard for measuring your weight to height ratio) was associated with a significant increase in the risk of cancer for 10 of the 17 cancer types they examined. Excess weight, they found, contributes to cancers of the:

  • Esophagus

  • Uterine lining

  • Ovary

  • Kidney

  • Pancreas

  • Breast (in post-menopausal women)

Excess weight was also linked to leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

For the Million Women Study, overweight was defined as having a body mass index between 25 and 29.9, while obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or more.

Obesity Rivals Smoking as a Major Cancer Causer

A separate study released shortly prior to the Million Women Study further confirmed the link between obesity and cancer. The 500-page report, "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective" -- put together by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund -- analyzed more than 7,000 clinical trials.

It found that obesity now causes nearly as many cases of cancer as smoking, and may one day surpass it.

"This is the first report that clearly shows that the fatter we are, the greater the risk of cancer. It's remarkable how clear that link is," said report co-author Dr. W. Philip James in a CBS News article.

And Dr. Emily Senay, an Early Show medical correspondent, called the report "eye-opening," and stressed that it "is clearer than ever. Even small amounts of excess body fat, especially around the middle, can make cancer more likely."

While the new reports serve to strengthen the obesity/cancer link, their findings are not new.


You shouldn't starve yourself to lose weight, just add more fruits and veggies to your diet, limit those high in sugar and trans fats, and get as much physical activity as you can.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 2003 also found that being overweight and obese can cause cancer. According to these findings, overweight and obesity may account for 20 percent of all cancer deaths among U.S. women, and 14 percent of those among men.

In all, the study found that 90,000 cancer deaths could be prevented every year if Americans maintained healthy body weights.

How to Maintain Your Ideal Weight

According to a 2002 American Cancer Society survey, just 1 percent of Americans associated maintaining a healthy weight with reducing their cancer risk.

But now that the evidence is out, there is even more motivation to lose any excess pounds you may be holding on to.

So how do you shed those pounds, or avoid gaining them, when you live in an obesogenic environment that tempts you with cheap junk food and often keeps you chained to your desk for much of the day? Here are the top tips.

  1. Limit your weight gain during adulthood to less than 11 pounds. This means, if you're currently at a healthy weight, add 11 pounds to that number, and, no matter what happens, don't let yourself slide over it.

  2. Get moving. Physical activity, on most days of the week, will help you to stay slim. Been awhile since you've exercised? Check out How to Most Effectively Start Working Out When You Haven't Exercised in Years.

    Proper stretching is also an excellent tool for weight loss. It helps to reduce stress, which can reduce your urge to eat, and improves your body's visual tone and appearance. The Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD has all the stretches you need to stay toned and flexible, and you can do them all in just 15-20 minutes a day.

  3. Eat more fruits and veggies. Eating more fruits and vegetables helps you to eat fewer calories while still feeling satisfied. Plus, these foods give your body plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that fight cancer.

    An excellent guide to get more fruits and veggies in your diet is Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes. You'll learn how to prepare delicious raw meals that are healthy for you and your family, and can be prepared in just five minutes.

  4. Limit added sugars in your diet in foods like soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, pies and fruit drinks. Also, bake, grill, steam or broil food instead of frying it.

  5. Watch your portion size. Overeating will lead to weight gain, even if you're overeating healthy foods. When you take your next meal, try serving yourself a little less than you usually eat, and then stop eating when you're full -- not when your plate is clean.

  6. Watch out for "high-risk" weight gain periods. For women, these periods are related to hormonal changes and occur after menstruation begins, after pregnancy and after menopause. For men, these periods are related to a less active lifestyle and occur after marriage, after taking a sedentary job and after no longer playing team sports. During these times, you may need to be especially careful about what you eat or sticking to your exercise routine to keep the weight off.

  7. Reduce stress in your life. Stress has been proven to cause weight gain in women. You can relieve stress and burn calories by exercising -- it increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which stimulate your immune system, reduce stress and put you in a better mood. You can also try out the Pure Relaxation CD -- a favorite for before bed or anytime you're having one of THOSE days.

Recommended Reading

Norway Seriously Considers an Obesity Tax. Should the U.S. Impose One Too?

The Hidden Burdens of Obesity: Greater Sensitivity to Pain, More Prone to Fatal Auto Crashes & More


British Medical Journal November 6, 2007

The New England Journal of Medicine, April 2003, Vol. 348, No. 17: 1625-1638

CBS News October 31, 2007

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