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Preventing Cancer through Weight Management

Published by Dr Girouard M.D.

Updated June 2, 2024

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Did you know that managing your weight can play a pivotal role in cancer prevention? Excess body weight is linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer. By maintaining a healthy weight, you not only enhance your body’s natural defenses but also improve your quality of life and potential lifespan.

The Link Between Weight and Cancer

Managing your weight is about more than looking good—it’s a critical health strategy. Having excess unhealthy body weight can make you more susceptible to various kinds of cancer. Scientific studies have found strong evidence that higher amounts of excess adipose tissue (specifically visceral fat) are associated with greater risks of breast, colon, and kidney cancer. This is why maintaining what’s considered a ‘healthy weight’ is about cancer prevention as much as overall health.

Excess weight can spur cancer growth in several ways. Fatty tissue in the body produces excess estrogens, which can fuel the development of cancers like breast and uterine cancer. Additionally, extra weight can cause chronic low-level inflammation which, over time, can cause DNA damage and weaken the immune system that leads to cancer. Many studies have shown that excess unwanted body weight not only increases the risk of cancer, but more aggressive and difficult to treat cancers.  Given these risks, it’s clear why keeping a healthy weight is a powerful cancer-prevention strategy.

The health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight

Weight management and disease prevention walk hand in hand. Staying at a healthy weight has multiple benefits to your body. First, a healthy weight boosts the performance of your immune system. Your immune system helps to detect and destroy abnormal cells, including those that can cause cancer. By keeping a balanced (not yo-yo’ing) weight, you give your immune system the advantage it needs to protect you against illness, chronic diseases and cancer.

A healthy weight can also help you lower your risk of chronic inflammation. Lower inflammation means a lower chance of DNA damage and, consequently, a lower risk of cancer. Finally, by maintaining a healthy weight, you also reduce levels of specific hormones like insulin, which are linked to certain types of cancer when present in high amounts.

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Practical Steps to Achieving and Sustaining a Healthy Weight

Achieving a healthier weight doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Start with small, manageable changes to your diet, such as reducing portion sizes and reducing sugar sweetened beverages. Incorporate low to moderate physical activity into your routine—anything that gets you moving, like walking, dancing, or gardening. Consistency is key: crash diets and extreme workouts are not sustainable and often lead to the yo-yo effects of weight loss and gain.

For most, reaching our to experts for guidance including a medically supervised weight loss program is the key to their successful weight management journey.  Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.   Discuss this option with a weight loss expert (someone with advanced training), to tailor an approach that’s both safe and effective for your individual needs. Whatever you do, the goal is to get you healthy and feeling great for the long-term.

The Biology Behind Obesity and Cancer

Excess body fat does more than increase your waistline—it acts like an extra organ in your body, creating hormones and proteins that can lead to cellular changes resulting in cancer. Obesity can also cause insulin resistance, leading to higher insulin levels in the body, another cancer risk factor.  In looking just at breast cancer, a 2006 study showed that a 22 pound weight gain after menopause increased a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 18%. However, for a woman with excess body weight, a loss of 22 pounds after menopause instead of a gain actually decreased her risk of breast cancer by 57%! Weight definitely  matters when it comes to cancer prevention.

Alternatively, a healthy weight can improve the cell functions in your body that combat cancer growth. DNA repair processes are more efficient in individuals at a healthy weight, and cells can work effectively in a body which isn’t hindered by excess fat. So, weight management can help your body protect itself against cancerous changes.

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle

Managing your weight isn’t just about fitting into your favorite clothes—it’s a key strategy in cancer prevention. By understanding the relationship between excess weight and cancer risk, you can take steps towards achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. For most, this begins with a balanced diet and regular physical activity. For many, assistance from medical weight loss experts like from Dr. Girouard’s clinics are part of the journey.

Remember, weight management is a long-term commitment with benefits that go beyond the scale. By embracing a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight, you’re taking a stand against cancer and investing in a longer, healthier life.

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