Body Fat linked to Cancer – Normal Weight May Not Exclude You!

Body Fat linked to Cancer and percent body fat calculations have taken center stage, lately, for a variety of reasons.  Many health professions recommend monitoring body fat.  Physical fitness authorities depend on body fat calculations to measure goals.  Health care providers watch body fat as a marker for disease risk.  The military uses body fat calculations even as part of its fitness standards.

Probably the most important contributor to the role of body fat and the need to monitor percent body fat has been the chronic illness, cancer.  Recently, ovarian cancer became the ninth in a growing list of obesity-associated cancers.  It is important, now, more than ever that we take reducing body fat percentages seriously.  We can use this as our weapon to modify not just health, but prevent an increasingly prevalent chronic illness, cancer.

Body Fat linked to Cancer

Your weight can be normal while you still have an abnormal body fat percentage

Higher body fat as a risk factor for cancer has been common knowledge for some time.   According to The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund elevated body fat levels have direct associations to cancers of the kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, colon and rectum, esophagus, endometrium (lining of the uterus), and breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

So male and female in normal weight ranges can still be affected since body fat percent can still be abnormal and place you at risk! The report describe overweight and obese ranges as elevated and are a direct preventable link, not just a risk factor as most are aware.  With this new development, it is now quite obvious that an overweight condition, not just obesity is unhealthy.  Still, unlike the usual complaints with cancer risks, such as genetics and other diseases already chronic within the body, body fat is something we can modify. Prevention is within our grasp!

Studies show that it is the body fat settling in the abdominal region that most affects cancer cell development.  Sadly, this is the most common area where we find our body fat since estrogen and testosterone dictate where to deposit stored fat!  Insulin instabilities develop in the face of obesity and the overweight condition, resulting in higher levels of these steroid hormones that contribute to pockets of inflammation.  Wherever there is persistent inflammation, the body is susceptible to cancer cell development.

This process happens 21 times a year, on average.  Most of the time, our immune systems effectively thwart the process! The obese person, by the nature of engorged fat cells, is, unfortunately, in a constant state of low-grade inflammation.  According to 2007 USA SEER data (NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) it is thought that approximately 34,000 new cases of cancer in men or 4 percent and 50,500 in women or 7 percent were attributed to obesity.

Not all body fat is bad.  We need essential fat to build the insulation for our nerves and the linings for our cells.  As infants, we need much fat to build our brain in that critical first two years and thus all that milk!  We continue to enjoy the aromatic and tasty foods filled with fat.  Still, studies have shown increased risk is present when the percent body fat is marginally above 25%. Remember, your scale weight may still be in the normal range for this to occur.  Fortunately, unlike genetics and other chronic illnesses, you can change percent body fat to lower your health risks, especially cancer.

There are a number of recommendations to maintain body fat within acceptable standards.   Many are familiar with the 30 minutes-a-day exercise health recommendation. This is often ignored because our priorities are not preset for weight control.  We have habits.  Breaking from tradition is nearly impossible!  Instead, try to convert exercise to regular activities of the day.  When you do this, you make weight control a new habit!  Consider using the stairs or riding a bicycle instead of the elevator or driving a vehicle.

The new practice becomes a habit.  This habit is a new priority.  Soon, you are managing your weight!   You also know that fast foods, sodas, and processed foods contribute to higher body fat.  Habits, again, are a matter of personal priority.  Finding fun ways to include high fiber, fruits, and vegetables into your diet is an easy way to change habits.  Creative recipes using white meats and fish can slowly replace interest in traditional red meats and processed meats that are cured, smoked, salted or chemically preserved (ham, bacon, and hot dogs).

Now is the time for you to seize your preventive power and change that which you can modify!  You cannot change your genetic makeup or other chronic diseases already diagnosed.  Still, you can make changes in priorities by choosing new habits that will lower body fat percentages to less than 25%.  Choose the easy things in life and gain a margin of control over cancer with your best tool: prevention.

 

References:

Arab, SJ, Steck SE, Ang A, Fontham ET, Bensen JT, Mohler JL. (2013). Adherence to World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research lifestyle recommendations reduces prostate cancer aggressiveness among African and Caucasian Americans. Nutr Cancer, 65(5), 633-43. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2013.789540.

Calle, EE & Kaaks, R. (2004). Overweight, obesity and cancer: epidemiological evidence and proposed mechanisms. Nature Reviews Cancer, 4, 579-91. doi:10.1038/nrc1408.

Engeland, A, Tretli, S, and Bjørge, T. (2003). Height, Body Mass Index, and Ovarian Cancer: A Follow-Up of 1.1 Million Norwegian Women. J Natl Cancer Inst, 95(16), 1244-48. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djg010.

Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, Second Expert Report. (2014). The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/ and http://www.aicr.org/assets/docs/pdf/reports/Second_Expert_Report.pdf.

Obesity and Cancer Risk. (2012). National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/obesity.

Ovarian Cancer 2014 Report: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Ovarian Cancer (2014). The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://www.aicr.org/continuous-update-project/reports/ovarian-cancer-2014-report.pdf.

Pizer, ES, Wood, FD, Heine, HS, Romantsev, FE, Pasternack, GR, and Kuhajda, FP. (1996). Inhibition of Fatty Acid Synthesis Delays Disease Progression in a Xenograft Model of Ovarian Cancer. Cancer Res, 56, 1189. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/56/6/1189.full.pdf+html.

Sellers, TA, Gapstur, SM, Potter, JD, Kushi, LH, Bostick, RM, and Folsom, AR. (1993). Association of Body Fat Distribution and Family Histories of Breast and Ovarian Cancer with Risk of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer. Am. J. Epidemiol, 138 (10), 799-803. – Body Fat linked to Cancer – Normal Weight May Not Exclude You!

 

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