There is no lack of downsides to obesity. Yet, research has revealed another one, especially for those who are overweight or obese in their twenties.
A recent study in the British Journal of Cancer has strong evidence that suggests people who were overweight in their 20s have a 60%-80% increased risk of developing esophageal and stomach cancer compared with those who maintained a normal weight throughout their life.1
If they gained more than 40 pounds by 50 years of age, the risk for esophageal cancer doubled and their risk for stomach cancer also increased moderately. 1
If those overweight 20-somethings progressed to obesity by 50, their risk for esophageal and stomach cancer tripled. 1
One reason may be that the excess weight triggers acid reflex issues that can lead to such cancers. However, there is a link between certain esophageal cancers and obesity even in the absence of acid reflux. This suggests that there may be additional mechanisms by which excess body fat can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute of Cancer Research published an update analyzing all research until now on esophageal cancer. The 2016 Esophageal Cancer Report discusses another possible link between obesity and esophageal cancer. The fact is that excess body fat does not just sit there. Where there is excess body fat, there is an increased secretion of inflammatory chemicals and leptin. Increased leptin has been shown to be carcinogenic for esophageal cells. 2
This in-depth report reveals that there is convincing evidence of the assocation between high body fat and esophageal cancer. While it is true that esophageal cancer is linked to smoking and alcohol consumption, researchers arranged data so as to compare smokers to non-smokers and found surprising results. The significant risk for cancer remained for non-smokers.
Though both cancers are rare in the United States, their five-year survival rate averages are low. This is mainly because they tend to be discovered at a late stage.
What does body weight have to do with cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, excess body weight can influence cancer in various ways. Excess body fat can affect the function of the immune system, the levels of certain hormones (such as estrogen or insulin), proteins that influence how the body uses certain hormones, and factors that regulate cell growth. 3
Are you doing everything in your power to keep your weight healthy? These facts highlight the importance of both achieving a healthy weight at a young age and preventing weight gain through the years. Doing so will not only help prevent such chronic diseases but also help you enjoy a better quality of life.
1. British Journal of Cancer 116, 951-959 (28 March 2017) | doi:10.1038/bjc.2017.29
2. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/continuous-update-project-cup/secondexpert-report. 2007.
3. Obesity and Cancer. (2017, January 17). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet#q3