They say with age comes wisdom. And that might be true.
But it’s not the only thing extra birthdays bring.
Aches and pains come with the territory too. And as we slow down it’s easy to start packing on pounds.
Your other half might think your pot belly is cute.
But that spare tire could come with some serious consequences. Because being overweight could send your risk for cancer skyrocketing.
In fact, studies link obesity to over a dozen specific kinds of cancer. And in some cases, a spare tire may raise your risk of more aggressive cancers as well as your risk of dying.
More on those cancers in a moment.
But first let’s take a quick look at why being overweight is associated with cancer in the first place.
How obesity and cancer risk are linked
Obesity causes chronic, low level inflammation. And as I’ve explained before, chronic inflammation is a reaction by your immune system which typically ends up with your body attacking its own tissues.
Over time, it can cause the kind of DNA damage that leads to cancer.
But that’s not the only link between being overweight and cancer risk. Whether you’re a guy or a gal, that jiggly belly produces excess estrogen.
And excess estrogen is linked to a number of different cancers.
Other cancers are associated with the excess insulin that typically goes hand in hand with obesity. And scientists suspect certain hormones produced by fat cells can stimulate cell growth. Which means they could cause tumors to grow as well.
Obesity and cancer: A beer belly sends cancer risk climbing
Researchers are still working to expand our understanding of the connections between obesity and cancer. But a number of strong observational studies make one thing very clear.
Excess body fat is associated with several different types of cancer.
1. Prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer is quite common as men age. In fact, 80 percent of guys who reach 80 will develop the disease.
But in many cases the cancer isn’t life threatening. And many men never even know they have it.
However if you’re sporting a muffin top, scientists at Oxford University have a warning for you. If you have a big belly or a high body mass index (BMI), you’re far more likely to develop an aggressive form of the disease.
The researchers crunched the numbers for over 141,000 men. They found that for every four inches added to the waist your risk for prostate cancer jumps by 13 percent. But those same four inches send your risk for an aggressive form of the disease to spike by 10 percent.
And in a separate Mayo clinic study researchers found a pot belly, even if you’re fit everywhere else, could send your risk of death climbing 87 percent higher than guys without a lot of extra belly fat.
2. Endometrial cancer:
Ladies, if you’re overweight your risk for cancer of the uterus shoots up. Experts say obese women are two to four times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than ladies who are normal weight.
If you’re VERY overweight your risk skyrockets to seven times as likely to develop the more common forms of the disease.
Plus the tendency to put on weight as we age makes fighting the battle of the bulge even more important as we get older. Because your risk for endometrial cancer goes up with your weight when you’re gaining it as an adult.
And while obesity throughout your life is linked to your cancer risk, obesity as an adult is one of the strongest risk factors for endometrial cancer.
3. Colorectal cancer:
Obesity makes you more likely to develop colorectal cancer as well. And while both men and women are affected, men you’re at a higher risk.
In a review published in the journal PLoS One, researchers took a deeper dive into the data from over 50 studies. They found folks who are obese are about 30 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer than their normal weight peers.
4. Breast cancer:
Women who are overweight past menopause face a higher risk for breast cancer too. A meta-analysis in the Lancet found that for every five unit increase in body mass index your breast cancer risk climbs 12 percent.
And obesity makes the picture even worse. When compared to normal weight women postmenopausal ladies who are obese have a stunning 20 to 40 percent jump in their chances of developing cancerous tumors.
And guys, you probably don’t give much (ok, any) thought to your own breast cancer risk. But men CAN develop breast cancer too. And obesity is associated with an increased risk for the cancer in men.
5. Liver cancer:
No matter whether you’re “just” overweight and sporting a beer belly, or obese with a BMI of 30 or more, your chances of developing liver cancer shoot up.
In fact, according to a meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Cancer you’re up to twice as likely to develop the disease. And while both men and women are in danger, obese guys have a higher risk.
In another study, researchers found an increased risk for liver cancer was associated with a higher BMI in men. And a bigger belly is linked to a higher risk in both men and women.
Other cancers that are associated with excess weight include…
- kidney cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- multiple myeloma
- brain cancer (meningioma)
- esophageal cancer
But you CAN reduce your weight related cancer risk. Targeting your pot belly and bringing your body mass index down can send it plummeting.
And don’t worry; you don’t have to become a triathlete. Simply get up and move more. Try picking up an active hobby such as playing tennis or swimming. You’d be surprised how dramatic a drop you’ll see in your risk as a result.
For example, researchers at the University of California say regular exercise can slash a guy’s prostate cancer risk by 68 percent. And women who walk for four hours a week, or do more intense exercise for two, reduce their breast cancer risk by 10 percent.
Don’t let your belly decide your fate. Commit to losing the weight today.