Obesity & Cancer Risk

Obesity and Cancer Risk

Obesity (Body Mass Index 30+) increases your risk of some types of cancer. There is strong evidence that obese women are at increased risk for cancer of the uterus (womb). Women who have been through the menopause and are obese or overweight have a greater risk of developing breast cancer. There is no link between obesity and breast cancer in women who have not reached the menopause. There is also some evidence for a link between obesity and cancer of the bowel and kidney.

Obesity, Oestrogen and Breast Cancer

Experts don’t know for sure why obesity affects your risk of breast cancer after the menopause. One possibility is that fat cells produce the hormone oestrogen, which stimulates the growth of some breast cancers.

Before the menopause, the ovaries produce oestrogen to regulate the menstrual cycle. After the menopause, levels of oestrogen produced by the ovaries fall dramatically as a woman stops menstruating. In women who are obese, fat cells can therefore become the main source of oestrogen, upsetting the normal post-menopausal levels of the hormone in a woman’s body.

Obesity, Diet and Cancer

A poor diet and lack of exercise may also contribute towards the higher cancer risk faced by people who are obese. Obese people are less likely to eat a healthy diet and take enough exercise, both of which are possible risk factors for cancer of the breast, uterus and bowel.

Source: Cancer Research UK

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