Exploring the Link Between Obesity and Cancer

By Dr Michelle Harvie, research dietitian at Prevent Breast Cancer. 

A recent report has suggested that almost 700,000 more people in the UK could develop cancer in the next 20 years because they are overweight or obese. In particular, the report mentions that in women, excess fat can lead to more oestrogen, which may cause cells to multiply in the breast and womb, therefore increasing risk.

The link between weight and breast cancer risk is not a new discovery – it’s been known for around 40 years that high weight can increase risk.

Unfortunately, in the 40 years since the impact of weight on breast cancer risk was discovered, the average weight of women in the UK has increased by around 8kg, or 17 lbs. Currently, 65 per cent of women in the UK are overweight or obese and, if we want to try to curb the prediction of extra cases of breast cancer made in this week’s report, this figure needs to come down.

Understandably, there is a push to tackle childhood obesity, which we fully support. However, a healthy weight maintained by a balanced diet and regular exercise should be promoted to people of all ages. Director of scientific research Professor Tony Howell and I reported 10 years ago that weight gain over adult life is a major risk factor for breast cancer and that losing just five per cent of weight and keeping it off can reduce breast cancer risk by up to 40 per cent.

It’s important that women (and men) understand the relationship between weight and the risk of breast cancer. They can then take the necessary steps to help reduce their risk of developing the disease later in life. It’s not only breast cancer risk that can benefit from being a healthy weight; it can help decrease risk of other cancers, as well as diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia, too. As such, at Genesis, we’re constantly looking for ways to make dieting easier.

Our 2-Day Diet has been proven to be a more effective plan for tackling weight loss and reducing the levels of the hormone insulin, which has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, than traditional daily diets. We found that when it comes to the five per cent weight loss mentioned above, 65 per cent of women on an intermittent diet can achieve this, compared to 40 per cent of those on standard daily diets.

Why not find out how you can lose weight with The 2-Day Diet?

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