Obesity and cancer

Obesity is a serious health condition in itself, and a risk factor for many leading causes of mortality and morbidity in Australia. Its links to cancer, however, are often overlooked.

Strong evidence has linked obesity to cancer as a risk factor, as a challenge to screening and as a challenge to treatment.

Conversely, weight loss can minimise or even eliminate many of these risks.

Caroline Xue

Read the full article on The Conversation, or read below for an extremely reductive summary.

As a risk factor

There is strong evidence suggesting that obesity increases the risk of many types of cancers, including those of the bowel, liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. Sex hormones, chronic inflammation and insulin growth factors are amongst the mechanisms under investigation.

As a challenge to screening

It can delay identification of tumours through screening, perhaps through difficulties with self-examination. There is a higher false positive rate in the detection of breast cancers for obese individuals.

As a challenge to treatment

It is linked to higher risks of post-surgery complications including heart attacks, wound infection, nerve injury and urinary infection. It may also reduce chemotherapy efficacy in breast cancer.

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