Being overweight or obese can significantly increase your chances of many serious diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This is because the extra fat in your body can have harmful side effects, like producing hormones and proteins that affect how your cells function. Cancer is the result of abnormal cell growth, and studies have found that many types of cancer are more common in people who are overweight or obese.
What types of cancers are more common in overweight and obese people?
There are 14 types of cancer that are linked to being overweight, and this list includes two of the most common (breast cancer and bowel cancer) and three of the hardest to treat (pancreatic, oesophageal and gallbladder cancer). Being overweight is considered a contributing factor to these cancers:
- Breast cancer (after menopause)
- Bowel cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Womb cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Cancer of the upper stomach
- Gallbladder cancer
- Cancer of the thyroid
- Pancreatic cancer
- Oesophageal cancer
- Myeloma, a type of blood cancer
- Meningioma, a type of brain tumour
How do I know if I’m overweight or obese?
One of the simplest ways to tell if you’re overweight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). This is a scale that researchers use to gain an overall picture of a person’s weight distribution and to ascertain whether they’re at a healthy weight for their age and height.
To calculate your BMI, you divide your weight in kilograms by your height in metres and square the result. Results between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered normal. Less than 18.5 is considered underweight, while 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. If your result is between 30 and 39.9, you are considered to fall into the ‘obese’ category, and anything above 40 is considered severely obese.
Other helpful measurements to ascertain whether you’re at a healthy weight are your waist circumference and your waist-to-hip ratio.
You can work out your BMI using this free tool: http://www.bmi-calculator.co.za/.
I’m overweight. How can I reduce my cancer risk?
First, start by putting a plan in place to reach a lower, healthier weight. Although you can’t control all cancer risk factors – and it’s true that many cancers affect people at random – weight is something you can control, and which can significantly reduce your risk. Moreover, losing weight will give you more energy, improve your sleep, reduce your risk of other diseases, and enable you to enjoy your life more in general.
If you don’t know where to start, make an appointment at Marie Stopes for a complete women’s wellness check-up. We’ll be able to help work out your ideal weight and give you practical tips for working towards it. We’ll also be able to give you screenings for cancers like cervical and breast cancer, and ensure that you’re in overall good health. You can also get helpful tips from the following resources:
- Skip the gym! 6 easy ways to stay healthy if you hate working out
- 5 Easy workouts you can do at home (starting tonight)