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  • Writer's pictureSerena Booy

OBESITY LINKED TO CANCER

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

Prevalence

Obesity among children and adolescence in Australia affects 1 in 4 children and is responsible for increased risk of musculoskeletal problems, sleep disorders, early onset Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic problems, poor self-image, low self-esteem, social isolation and depression, leading to long-term chronic health conditions such as cancer and other associated psychosocial problems.


2017-2018, Australia is reported as having two-thirds of adults (67.0%) population considered to be overweight or obese (1).


Obesity amongst women in Papua New Guinea is growing at an average annual rate of 2.65% with the prevalence of female obesity in 2016 being 25.8%. No data has been released since 2016, unfortunately, obesity is also on the rise in developing countries.


13 types of cancer


There are 13 types of cancer more prevalent in overweight/obese individuals.

· Oesophageal

· Breast

· Liver

· Gallbladder

· Kidney

· Gallbladder

· Kidney

· Bowel

· Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer)

· Meningioma (type of brain cancer)

· Thyroid

· Gastric Cardia

· Pancreatic

· Ovarian

· Uterine


Body fat, the fat that sits around our waists and bellies is often regarded as ‘toxic fat’. Body fat plays a large role in insulin resistance, increasing an individual’s risk of developing diabetes.


Body fat produces toxins that are damaging to our health, causing inflammation. Environmental pollutants and toxins are stored in fatty tissue creating further health problems.


Causes of Obesity


Many of our social structures within society have become social determinants of obesity.


Obesogenic environments are environments that promote poor physical behaviours and lifestyles such as poorly designed urban area, housing dynamics, working conditions, regular break times, and nigh time activities.


Family structure: number of incomes in the family unit, family social support network, number of parents/siblings in the home, cultural beliefs and practices.


Food choices: cultural beliefs and practices regarding food preparation, affordability and accessibility of healthy food and impact of media/advertising on food choices.

“Food companies are motivated to target youth because they collectively spend $200 billion annually and indirectly influence $200 billion in additional spending.”


Social stigmatization associated with excessive weight gain/obesity is a struggle that many overweight and obese individuals face, often resulting in negative outcomes.


Maternal health of mother, health of baby in utero, how the baby was delivered and if the baby was breast fed also come into play when considering determinants of obesity.

How individuals view themselves or how their perception of how others view them also impacts of the prevalence of overweight/obesity.


Cultural barriers such as language, interpreting food labels, inadequate social support and poor understanding of dietary practices impact on the prevalence of obesity.

Cultural beliefs and practices where large women are perceived to be more appealing and highly valued for their child bearing abilities compared to skinnier women. This is a public health issue that is inter-generational, affecting our current child/adolescent population and future generations as well.


Poor health literacy. A cross-sectional population study indicates that further public health campaigns are needed.


Scientific Evidence


Evidence supports the fact that higher amounts of body fat on an individual is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer.


An increased cancer risk in obese individuals may be linked to several mechanisms:


· Obese individuals are more susceptible to chronic inflammation, leading to a cascade of events including DNA damage and ultimately cancer. Examples of this can be illustrated in the following patients:


1. Patient presents with gallstones; a condition characterized by chronic gallbladder inflammation and holds a strong risk factor for gallbladder cancer.

2. Chronic ulcer colitis and hepatitis, both inflammatory conditions, are risk factors for different types of liver cancers.


· Adipose tissue (fat tissue) produces excess estrogen, estrogen is associated with increased risk of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers.


· Increased blood levels of insulin, as seen in diabetics, promote the development of colon, kidney, prostate and endometrial cancers.


Cancer Prevention


Assessing current behaviour and lifestyle choices can be a key component in reducing the risk of developing cancer.


Addressing weight management in order to maintain a healthy weigh, along with being physically active are key components in reducing your susceptibility to developing cancer.




Resources

1. https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/Overweight-and-Obesity

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