For decades physicians have encouraged patients to eat well and maintain a healthy weight to improve heart health. In more recent years, they have stressed losing excess weight to reduce the risk of diabetes. Now they can add cancer to the growing list of diseases exacerbated by obesity.
1/3 of all US cancer deaths are attributable to diet and physical inactivity habits.
A long-term American Cancer Society study shows that obesity can actually increase our risk of getting cancer and may even worsen our chances of surviving after a cancer diagnosis.
According to the study, the higher the weight the higher the cancer occurrence. Certain cancer types also showed a stronger link including; breast cancer after menopause, cancers of the colon and rectum, pancreas, kidney, esophagus, and endometrium. Overweight cancer patients have poorer survival rates – particularly obese women with breast cancer and obese men with prostate cancer. These overweight patients are also more likely to have an aggressive form of cancer that is more likely to come back after surgery.
1/3 of US adults are obese.
What you can do
When it comes to addressing weight, doctors often just don't how to broach the subject. Weight is an emotionally charged topic. However, patients are best served when doctors recognize obesity as a medical condition and discuss it openly and honestly with their patients. One study showed that physicians who used an empathetic and motivational communication style (versus a confrontational or judgmental style) led to more weight lost in post-appointment follow-ups (3.1 lbs lost versus .4 lbs gained). The longer the physician-patient discussion, the more specific the recommendations and the more regular the follow-ups, the better the weight loss results.
Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
- Be as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight.
- Avoid excessive weight gain at all ages. For those who are currently overwight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
- Engage in regular physical activity and limit consumption of high-calorie foods and beverages as key strategies for maintaining a healthy weight.
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Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
- Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week.
- Children and adolescents should engage in at least 1 hour of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity at least 3 days each week.
- Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down and watching television and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
- Doing any intentional physical activity above usual activities, no matter what one's level of activity, can have many healthy benefits.
Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
- Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit consumption of processed meat and red meats.
- Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains, if you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption.
- Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2012. Atlanta, GA:American Cancer Society; 2012.
1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2012. Atlanta, GA:American Cancer Society; 2012.
2 Cancer.org, The Cancer Obesity Connection
3 American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Physician Communication Techniques and Weight Loss in Adults,Volume 39, Issue 4, Pages 321-328, October 2010.