Obesity and cancer: How deleterious is the relationship?

Obesity and cancer: How deleterious is the relationship?

Overweight and obesity have become one of the major health concern all around the world due to the dramatic elevation in its prevalence. The existing impact of this disease has turned out to be the major risk factor behind several health concerns, such as hypertension, type-2 diabetes, stroke, Arthritis and several types of cancer. It might unbelievable that how being too much overweight can become a risk factor for cancer?

But, obesity and cancer indeed hold a significant relationship. As we have also read in the previous blogs how our lifestyle and food preferences can impact the risk of getting cancer. Because it is better to take prevention rather than going through problematic chemotherapeutic cancer treatments

Now how deleterious this relationship is, to find out this, let's explore what changes through our body goes while being obese:

  • What is obesity?
  • Major causes of obesity
  • Obesity and Cancer relationship
  • Way to control obesity
  • Conclusion

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a disorder characterized by excessive body fat, measure in the form of body mass index (BMI). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the BMI of more than 30 kg/m2 marked as being obese.



>30 kg/m2


18.5–24.9 kg/m2


25–29.9 kg/m2


<18.5 kg/m2


Major Causes of Obesity

The reasons behind obesity can majorly be categorized into primary and secondary causes.

Primary Causes:

  • Poor dietary habits (high caloric intake, mainly via snacking pattern, high carbohydrate and fat diet)
  • Sedentary lifestyle (low physical activity)

Secondary Causes:

Except for the above-mentioned causes, you can also get the problem of obesity from the secondary causes. These causes generally left undiscovered and untreated. The secondary causes of obesity further can be segregated into three classes:

  1. Genetic

The genetic involvement to enhance body weight is considered to be due to genetic predisposition and heritability. It is estimated, if both the parents are obese, there are prominent chances (80%) that their offspring might also be obese. However, if only one parent is obese, then the prevalence of being obese of the offspring fall to 10%. It can be due to a single gene or congenital and genetic diseases.

  1. Endocrinological

The other prominent secondary reason that might cause obesity is endocrinological etiologies. The disorders such as hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, polycystic ovary syndrome or growth hormone deficiency lead to many changes in the body, including, increased fat deposition, fat redistribution, increased energy intake or decreased lipogenesis. All of these can significantly lead to obesity.

  1. Iatrogenic

This involves drugs that might can increase your weight. The centrally acting medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics and antiepileptics or anti-diabetic medications like insulin or sulfonylureas can raise the risk of getting obesity.
These are the causes which you need to keep in mind to avoid obesity. For this, it is very essential that you are adopting good yoga, exercise and eating habits.

Obesity and Cancer relationship

In the scenario of not keeping control on weight, you might enhance the risk of getting certain types of cancer for your body.

It can be estimated in an analysis, which shows that about 5.5% of cancer cases in the UK were associated to obesity or overweight and the rate of mortality from cancer was attributable to the obesity; 19.8% in females and 14.2% in males.

Development of tumour comprises a local environment, which aids in stimulating cell proliferation. The changing body goes through while in obesity can be the favourable environment for cancer progression. Therefore, not to prevent other body from other diseases like cardiovascular and diabetes, but also to reduces the risk of cancer, obesity is needed to control.

Let's explore the profound relationship between obesity and cancer:

  • Chronic Inflammation

Obesity presents a significant association with enhanced inflammatory and pro-inflammatory biomarkers. These biomarkers generally produced by adipose cells and macrophages, which are accumulated in the tissues with enhanced adiposity (enhanced disposition of fat in the body). However, adipose tissues also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory cells, but in obese people, the net balance is transfer towards a pro-inflammatory state, which boosts the oncogenic environment.

  • Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells present in your muscles, liver and fat don't respond accurately to the insulin, results from improper use of glucose present in the body. Insulin resistance is a significant characteristic of obese people and can become a great risk factor for cancer. This all is due to significant changes in the levels of inflammatory markers following the insulin resistance.

The relationship between obesity and insulin is symptomatic and the result of more profound dysfunction of the insulin or insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). the levels of this protein in the blood rise following the insulin sensitivity. The activation of insulin and IGF-1 receptors trigger transduction pathways which enhance tumour growth.

  • Fatty Acid Metabolism

The key enzyme fatty acid synthase (FAS) in the synthesis of long-chain fatty acids is one of the crucial enzymes for membrane function and cellular energy metabolism. The expression of this enzyme of fatty acid metabolism shows a significant association with the progression of various cancer cell lines, for instance, breast, colon, prostate, ovarian and gastrointestinal.

The FAS polymorphism was higher in males which have greater BMI rates. These men were found to be at higher risk of prostate cancer and associated mortality. Fatty acids and associated microbial products are also linked with both cancer and obesity. Therefore, to control and maintain the fatty acid metabolism on right track, it is very crucial to keep BMI on track.

  • Leptin

Leptin is a potent adipocyte-specific hormone, which is a product of a gene engaged in the regulation of body weight and food intake by conducting significant actions on the central nervous system and adipocytes.

The obese people found to have higher levels of this hormone, which further significantly associated with enhanced body weight and leptin resistance. Leptin is a potential stimulator of tumour growth and cell proliferation and its resistance in the body can increase the risk of getting cancer up to a certain extent.

Other than this, hormone glucagon and adipose-derived factors, adipokines also involved in the enhancing risk of various cancers and tumours. These all associations equitably shows that obesity possesses potential association with cancer progression and metastasis. Therefore, it is very important to keep your body weight under control.

Way to control obesity

  • Avoid excess of white and refined sugar and carbohydrates
  • Include whole wheat and other healthy food items in your diet
  • Avoid fried, junk and fast food
  • Start your day with a glass of warm water
  • Do proper exercise, walking, yoga or running every day
  • Watch your plate size, instead of adding large portions of food, try to add a variety of foods
  • Start consuming fruits.
  • Add green tea and lemon tea in your regular life routine

These are some of the changes, by doing which you can control your weight easily.


Obesity and cancer association can risk your life on stake and therefore it is very essential to be in required body weight. This not only keeps you away from the risk of getting cancer but also protect your metabolism, heart and joints.

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