(WellnessNova.com) - Could weight loss slash your risk of developing and dying from cancer?
That’s exactly what researchers are seeking to determine in a new study, which is now getting underway with trials.
At first glance, weight and cancer may seem unrelated. But as the medical and science communities perform new studies, we’re becoming more and more certain that your weight does, in fact, elevate your cancer risk.
According to The World Cancer Research Fund, as many as 20 percent of American cancer cases may be linked to obesity, sedentary and inactive lifestyle, poor nutrition, and other dietary factors. The implication of this claim is actually rather startling, as this means you could theoretically prevent as many as one in five cancer cases that are diagnosed in the United States.
The organization also estimates that excess body fat could be a major factor in as many as one in five cancer-related deaths. In fact, if you have excess belly fat, you may have one of the most dangerous types of weight when it comes to your cancer risk. The group also says that the timing of your obesity could be a big factor. For example, if you’re overweight as a child or young adult, you could have a higher risk of certain cancers when compared to someone who gains weight in middle age or later.
Other research studies have revealed that women who are overweight during their teenage years could have a greater risk of getting diagnosed with ovarian cancer during their childbearing years.
In what is expected to be the largest study of its kind, Harvard University Medical School’s researchers have found that cancer patients can increase their chances of survival by as much as 20 percent by losing weight. A weight reduction of just 10 percent of your total body mass could be enough to bring about this significant benefit. That’s according to a preliminary round of research that focused on breast cancer patients and the impact of diet.
The five-year study will examine more than 13,000 female breast cancer patients who will lose weight by exercising five times per week. They’ll also limit their daily intake to a maximum of 1500 calories.
Medical researchers will be looking at the overall survival rate at the end of a five-year timeframe, concluding in 2021. According to the leading researcher, Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, “It will be the largest study that’s ever tested the impact of weight loss on cancer – any form of cancer…”
In addition to breast cancer patients, it’s possible that endometrium, esophageal, kidney, colorectal, and prostate cancer patients could benefit from weight loss in a similar way. That’s because obesity has already been linked to an increased risk of developing these types of cancers.
Conversely, though, patients suffering from lung cancer, skin cancer, and other forms of cancer that are caused by carcinogens – not hormones – may not see much, if any, improvement in their survival rate as a result of losing weight.
The primary connection between cancer and excess weight is believed to be rooted in hormone levels. It’s believed that fairly small increases in your levels of leptin, insulin, and estrogen can actually fuel cancerous tumor growth.
According to the American Cancer Society, inflammation, which is also exacerbated by excess weight, could also be a factor. Another contributor could be immune system function, which is impaired in obese patients.
Study results presented before the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) revealed that obese women who were undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer responded more poorly to the treatment when compared to patients who were of a normal weight or underweight.
The research was conducted in Turkey, where medical researchers examined chemotherapy and medical records from nearly 300 patients. The women who were obese were more likely to see a recurrence in cancer and they were also less likely to respond well to the chemotherapy treatment.
It’s the numbers in this study that really drive home the point. The “complete response” rate in obese patients was 17 percent, while patients who were in the underweight or normal weight category saw a complete response rate of 30 percent.
For patients who experienced a cancer relapse, the average relapse time was 76 months in patients who were obese, while that timeframe was nearly doubled to 150 months for patients in the normal weight category.