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Extra weight tied to breast cancer

Obesity, physical inactivity and being overweight account for more than 88,000 breast cancer deaths each year. Studies show 19 percent of breast cancer deaths are attributed to increased weight. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, claiming 7.6 million people each year according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Over 40 percent of all cancer can be prevented and some of the most common cancers – including breast, colorectal and cervical – are curable if detected early.

According to WHO, 84 million people will die in the next 10 years if action is not taken. About 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in low- to- middle-income countries and are projected to continue to rise.

Cancer is Largely Avoidable

Cancer prevention is an essential component in the fight against cancer. Unfortunately, many cost-effective prevention measures such as anti-tobacco campaigns and comprehensive diet and exercise strategies have yet to be widely implemented in many countries.

“Every country, regardless of resource level, can confidently take steps to curb the cancer epidemic”, says Dr. Andreas Ullrich, a WHO cancer control medical officer within the Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion.

Improved lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, stress management and avoidance of tobacco and alcohol are universally important. Even if cancer cannot be prevented, lifestyle modification will help late-stage cancer.  Pain can be reduced, progression of the cancer slowed and longevity improved.

Cancer Silently Develops

Experts agree that prevention offers the most cost-effective, long-term strategy for the control of cancer. One of the primary problems is that cancer commonly develops silently over time. By the time you’re aware you have cancer -- it’s typically too late.

A recent 2012 study investigated the link between weight and the recurrence of breast cancer. Among women who have been successfully treated, heavier women are more likely to have the condition come back and less likely to survive the disease.

In the study of approximately 5,000 women treated for breast cancer, about two-thirds had weight-related problems. Forty percent of the women had breast cancer recurrence over the study period, and 69 percent were more likely to die from the condition or complications.

It is very common for an individual to never address or correct the underlying reason they developed cancer in the first place. Cancer commonly recurs when weight and other lifestyle factors have not been properly addressed, thus increasing the risk of death.

The Cancer Lifestyle

It may be common sense that sitting on the couch, eating highly processed food and engaging in little-to-no physical activity will make you sick – but what are we doing about it?

Coincidently, poor lifestyle indicators such as diet, physical activity, smoking, drinking alcohol and stress play a significant role in creating hormonal imbalance. Hormonal imbalance is linked to weight gain, the inability to lose weight and the development of many cancers –including breast cancer.

The Insulin-Estrogen Connection

Excess weight is also closely related to the development of diabetes.  Diabetes is a form of hormonal imbalance, as the body is no longer able to utilize the hormone insulin. The most common treatments for diabetes are insulin medications and injections.

Insulin and insulin-like hormones have been found to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. Diabetic women carrying extra fat—especially around the waistline—have been shown to produce more estrogen. Two-thirds of breast cancers are related to specific estrogen receptor-positive cancer.

Preventing Cancer Naturally

Lifestyle is linked to nearly every health condition. Individuals who are overweight also suffer higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. One can significantly reduce their risk of developing a condition but also effectively treat established conditions by improving their lifestyle.

The following are different ways that obesity is linked to cancer:

•              Extra fat tissue produces excess estrogen. High levels of estrogen have been linked with breast and other reproductive cancers.
•              Individuals who are overweight typically have increased levels of blood sugar and altered levels of insulin. Insulin and similar hormones have been found to promote tumor growth.
•              One of the contributing factors to obesity and weight loss resistance is inflammation. Lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress will play a significant role in developing or curbing inflammation throughout the body. Increased levels of inflammation have been linked to cancer.

Physical Activity Reduces Cancer

Up to one in six deaths can be linked to physical inactivity, according to a recent study published in The Lancet. Dr. I-Min Lee, the lead researcher from Harvard Medical School said “Only about one quarter of the world’s population smoke, but about two-thirds are inactive.”

It is recommended to exercise daily. The easiest form of exercise is to go for a 15 -30 minute walk. It will safely increase heart rate, reduce inflammation, balance hormones and increase oxygen consumption in your body – all of which help in fighting cancer.

Don’t Smoke

Cigarette smoking is still very common despite the known hazards to one’s health. There is a direct relationship between the amount of cigarettes smoked per day and the risk of developing cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality worldwide, causing an estimated 22 percent of cancer deaths per year.

Diet & Cancer Linked

What you eat—and don’t eat—has a powerful effect on your health, including your risk of cancer. Without knowing it, you may be eating many foods that fuel cancer, while neglecting the powerful foods and nutrients that can protect you. If you change your diet and behaviors, you can minimize your risk of cancer.

•              Don’t drink alcohol while trying to lose weight. You will be able to make healthier choices and reduce the cravings that contribute to weight gain.
•              Eat more vegetables. Vegetables have significant amounts of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
•              Reduce and eliminate sugars. Processed sugars are the leading cause of weight gain, diabetes and eventual cancer risk.
•              Processed foods contain significant amounts of preservatives and artificial colorings. These items can be classified as toxins and toxins are stored in fatty tissue. These toxins are a leading cause of weight loss resistance and obesity.
•              Animals and meat products can be exposed to environmental toxins and even fed toxic foods. Consuming products made from animals raised in toxic environment will, in turn, greatly increase our toxic exposure.

It Starts With You

Lifestyle modification does take concentrated effort to think about ways you can improve your daily choices. Daily choices are exactly that – choices. Every country, regardless of resource level, can take proactive steps to curb the cancer epidemic – it starts with you.

Don’t wait until you have cancer to rely on early detection techniques. Commit to improve your diet, implement an exercise regimen and become conscious of the toxins around you that contribute to weight gain, cancer risk and overall life expectancy. 

Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

Facebook: Dr Cory Couillard
Twitter: DrCoryCouillard


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