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CDC: Obesity ‘increases risk of 13 types of cancer’

Overweight or obese Americans are at a higher risk of developing cancer, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At least 13 different types of cancer are associated with obesity, yet figures suggest more than half of Americans are unaware of the link between excess weight and cancer. Furthermore, two in three adults in the United States weigh more than the recommended healthy weight. 

Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, director of the CDC, explained most adults in the United States are overweight, putting them at a higher risk for certain types of cancer including thyroid, breast, liver, gallbladder, upper stomach, pancreatic, colon, uterine, ovarian, and kidney cancers. Obesity also puts patients at risk of developing meningioma (cancer in the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord), adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and multiple myeloma (cancer of the blood cells).  In 2014, about 630,000 Americans were diagnosed with one of these cancers associated with obesity and being overweight. 

Between 2005 and 2014 there was a seven percent increase in the cancers, contrasting with a decrease of 13 percent in cancers not associated with being overweight or obese, according to the US Cancer Statistics 2017. Fitzgerald described the latest findings as a “cause for concern”, but said achieving and maintaining a healthy weight would help Americans play a role in cancer prevention. 

Her comments were echoed by Theodore Brasky, professor, and researcher at Ohio State University, who told the Guardian more focus on cancer prevention is needed. “It’s so much easier to not get cancer than to have to deal with treating it,” he asserted. 

The CDC highlighted a number of ways patients can lose weight and decrease the risk they will develop obesity-associated cancer. It recommended people follow the Dietary Guidelines for American 2015-2020 from the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health & Human Services. Doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity could also help people lose weight and maintain good health. 

Overweight patients were advised to talk to their healthcare providers about how to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. As well as decreasing the risk of certain cancers developing, achieving a healthy weight can also minimize the risk of other conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and bone diseases. 

As well as providing dietary and lifestyle advice, healthcare providers may also recommend medication to help patients manage their weight. Anti-obesity products include drugs such as Belviq and Contrave, which help control appetite. However, in most cases, it is possible to lose weight through dietary and lifestyle changes, for example by following a reduced calorie diet and doctor-approved exercise schedule.