Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Medical risks expanding along with waistlines

Cancer dangers from obesity are growing exponentially, article in The Washington Post indicates

Obesity may overtake smoking as the No. 1 preventable cause of cancer.

According to a story by Laurie McKinley in The Washington Post a while back, the change is due to waistlines continuing "to expand while tobacco use plummets."

McKinley notes that Dr. Otis Brawley, ex-American Cancer Society (ACS) chief medical officer who's now a Johns Hopkins oncologist, says the switch may take five to 10 years.
Dr. Jennifer Ligibel
What's happening, she quotes Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, a breast oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as saying, is that "a complex interplay of metabolism, inflammation and immunity…creates an environment that is more permissive for cancer."

The Post also quotes Dr. Jonathan Wright, a urologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research, to the effect that "it does appear that the risk is greater the more obese you are."

Only about half the American public purportedly is aware of the link between excess weight and cancer. 

The deadly combo has long been known to increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes — and now is being associated, according to the Post, "with an increased risk of getting at least 13 types of cancer, including stomach, pancreatic, colorectal and liver malignancies, as well as postmenopausal breast cancer."

ACS researchers contend that "excess body weight is linked to about 8 percent of all cancers in the United States and about 7 percent of cancer deaths," McKinley reports.

She also writes that "compared with people of normal weight, obese patients are more likely to see their cancer come back and have a lower likelihood of survival. Perhaps more alarming, young people, who as a group are heavier than their parents, are developing weight-related malignancies, including colorectal cancer, at earlier ages than previous generations, experts say."

An article in JAMA Internal Medicine (the journal of the American Medical Association) several years ago maintained that "seven in 10 Americans are overweight or obese." But the obesity rate has been rising exponentially since that piece was published.

The type of cancer most associated with obesity, McKinley writes, "is endometrial, which develops in the lining of the uterus. Obese and overweight women are two to four times as likely to develop the disease as women of normal weight, and the risk rises with increased weight gain, according to the National Institutes of Health."

Statistics from that source also indicate that "people who are overweight or obese are twice as likely to develop liver and kidney cancer, and about 1.5 times as likely to develop pancreatic cancer than normal-weight people, according to NIH."

Several researchers, McKinley says, "are running clinical trials to prove what many already believe — that losing weight reduces the odds of developing cancer or having a recurrence." 

If studies show that to be true, she adds, "doctors could prescribe a weight-loss program as standard therapy for breast cancer patients — much as cardiac rehabilitation is urged for heart-attack patients. That could pave the way for insurance coverage."

More details on health risks can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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