While we all know that obesity is the mother of several diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, arthritis, sleep apnoea, infertility and more, it also has a link with cancer. Recent data reveals that only 5% to 10% of cancer cases are due to genetic defects and the remaining 90% to 95% of cancer cases are because of environmental factors, lifestyle and food habits. Obesity is one of the prime reasons for the fatal disease.
According to a study by the American Institute for Cancer Research, one lakh cases of cancer every year are linked with obesity. However, this is something that we tend to skip out. Not many of us are aware of how obesity can be a contributing factor to this deadly and fatal condition.
Celebrated on February 4 every year, World Cancer Day, an initiative of Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) that aims to provide support, raise awareness, be vocal, take personal action and compel our governments to efficiently tame cancer, is knocking round the corner.
Themed as #IAmAndIWill, this year’s World Cancer Day is dedicated to lending a compassionate ear to the story of every cancer patient and keeping up the promise to overcome the condition. Marking this special event, we must know how obesity can cause cancer.
The fat tissues behave like an endocrine organ that secretes number of hormones which give signals to cells to divide more often. This results in formation of tumor. Fat tissues produce excess amount of estrogen, high level of which is associated with the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer and more. Those who are obese have higher levels of insulin and insulin like growth factors in their blood that boost up the development of colon cancer. Fat cells produce hormones called Adipokines that may stimulate or inhibit cell growth.
Leptin, the hormone that regulates one’s appetite and fat storage and is more abundant in obese people, seems to promote cells growth more than normal which can lead to cancer in different places. Endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney, gall bladder, breast, colorectal cancers are all related to obesity.
Also, in case an individual is obese in pre-menopausal age group, chances of developing breast cancer increases three times compared to those who are not obese.
It is essential to know what causes obesity that eventually leads to cancer in order to save India from the whopping burden of this life-claiming condition. With 106.6 new cancer cases per 100,000 people in the country in 2016 according to a recent global analysis conducted by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Washington University, India had as much as 14 lakhs cancer patients in the same year, showed data recorded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which is alarming. In India there are top six causes of obesity that one should be aware of. Consuming high calorific foods such as saturated and trans fats and sugar, getting addicted to television and other hand-held devices that restrict an individual’s movement, weight gain among adults, especially among adult women in their menopausal age, several ailments like hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), excessive usage of certain drugs like steroids, oral contraceptive pills, antidepressants, antiepileptics, antihypertensives and insulin along with heredity or a family history of obesity are the major contributing factors that result in obesity.
On this World Cancer Day, we can work together to prevent cancer by at least controlling this preventable cause of cancer. Obesity is a preventable disease and can be kept at bay by following certain smart tips. Here are some of them that one can follow to avoid getting obese and eventually prevent cancer.
- Exercise on a regular basis for at least 45 minutes
- Avoid bakery products with high content sugar and fat
- Include more veggies, fruits and whole grains in diet
- Eat only two meals a day, instead of 4 times. Have soups, salads and fruits in between the meals.
- Make sure to walk daily for 45 minutes
- Sleep for six to seven hours daily
- Play outdoor games at least twice a week
- Focus on having more fruits and green vegetables. Inclusion of fruits and vegetables of five colours is a must
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid sweets and sugary foods
- Prefer to eat home cooked foods
There is nothing to fear about cancer if one has the will to stay away from it. Prevention is any day better than cure and hence it is essential for one to adapt a lifestyle that will help prevent the risk of cancer. Avoiding sedentary lifestyle, controlling tobacco consumption, sticking to adequate and immunity enriching diet can work wonder in keeping the condition at bay.
More of widespread health promotion campaigns against cancer such as the World Cancer Day should be more frequently organised in order to make laymen aware of how they can avoid as well as fight the critical disease.
(Writer Dr Neha Prashant Shah is Lead Consultant, Westminster Healthcare. Views expressed are personal opinion.)