Results from a recent large analysis of data concluded that obesity is the second leading cause of cancer behind smoking in the United States. As obesity rates are increasing and smoking rates are decreasing, obesity is expected to become the number one risk factor linked to cancer over the next decade in the U.S. These results were presented from findings referred to as Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective from a board assembled by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund International.

At present, two-thirds of Americans are considered to be overweight. In addition, global cancer rates are increasing more rapidly than the increase in population. It has been known that obesity increases the risk of some cancers; however, the quantity of the risk and the specific cancers for which the risk is increased has remained under evaluation.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund International has convened a 21-member board to evaluate risks of cancer. The board reviewed data from over 7,000 published studies and reported the following:

  • ­ Obesity significantly increases the risk of six cancers: colon, kidney, pancreas, esophagus, and endometrial and breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
  • ­ Even a few excess pounds or increased abdominal girth results in increased risks.
  • ­ Increased intake of red meat increased the risk of cancer by 15%.
  • ­ Increased intake of processed meats increased the risk of colorectal cancer.

According to the results found by this analysis, the researchers made the following recommendations for the prevention of cancer as related to weight:

  • ­ Remain as lean as possible within the normal range of weight.
  • ­ Eat a diet based on food derived from plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes).
  • ­ Avoid more than 18 ounces of red meat per week.
  • ­ Avoid as much processed meat as possible.
  • ­ Remain physically active.
  • ­ Nutritional needs should be met, as much as possible, through diet alone.
  • ­ Consumption of empty-calorie foods, such as sugary drinks, should be limited.
  • ­ Breastfeeding should be considered over formula.
  • ­ Consumption of salt, moldy grains or moldy legumes should be limited.
  • ­ Alcohol intake should be limited .
  • ­ Survivors of cancer should follow these same recommendations.

The researchers stated that physicians should begin weight loss intervention at the earliest signs of their patients gaining weight or being overweight. As well, physicians should be discussing diet and physical activity with their patients.

Individuals who are overweight may wish to speak with their physician regarding a weight loss and physical activity program to greatly reduce their risk of developing cancer.

Reference: World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. 2007. Available at: . Accessed November 2007.

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