Focus on obesity-related cancer

While most Americans are aware that obesity increases the risk for numerous health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, only half of Americans are aware that obesity is a major risk factor for cancer.

These findings are part of the Cancer in Iowa 2018 report, an annual look at the effect of cancer in the state, prepared by State Health Registry of Iowa, based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

According to the report, scientific evidence exists linking excess body weight to higher risk of several types of cancer including colorectal, thyroid, uterine, ovarian, esophageal adenocarcinoma, kidney, pancreatic, liver, gastric (cardia), gallbladder, post-menopausal breast, malignant meningioma, and multiple myeloma. This is not meant to imply that all cases of these cancers were actually caused by obesity.

The exact explanation for the relationship between obesity and cancer risk remains unclear, but it is known that fat tissue is highly active, producing large amounts of hormones like estrogen, insulin, and insulin-like growth factors, the report says. High levels of these hormones have been linked to certain types of cancer.

“Cancer research is vital if we are to continue reducing the burden of cancer for the people of Iowa and beyond,” says George Weiner, M.D., director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. “This research needs to include evaluation of the best ways to encourage and support a healthy lifestyle, such as avoiding obesity, as well as research into the biology and therapy of cancer.”

Read the full Cancer in Iowa 2018 report.