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Obesity and Cancer

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Obesity and Cancer

Research shows that excess body fat increases your risk for several cancers, including colorectal, post-menopausal breast, uterine, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic cancers. The link between obesity and cancer risk is clear. But what’s less clear is how exactly one leads to the other.

Primarily, fat exists to store calories in the form of lipids, which when food is scarce would serve as backup energy storage to keep us going. But nowadays, many people consume more calories than they use up, leading to more of us becoming overweight or obese.

Extra fat in the body doesn't just sit there. It’s acting like a huge gland, actively sending out signals to the rest of your body. The constant stream of biological information and instructions affects the rest of our body, helping to control processes like growth, metabolism, and reproductive cycles. Because of this, the signal produced by excessive fat has a darker side when it comes to cancer.

Research has identified 3 main ways excess fat might lead to cancer:

1. Sex Hormone (Estrogen):

After menopause, fat cells produce the hormone estrogen. This can make cells in the breast and womb multiply more often and faster, increasing the risk of cancer.

2. Insulin & Growth Factor:

Excess fat can cause the level of insulin and growth factors to rise which can also tell the cells to divide more rapidly, increasing the risk of cancer.

3. Inflammation:

When there are more fat cells in the body, specialised immune cells called macrophages will enter the area, possibly removing dead or dying fat cells and this will release chemicals called cytokines and can lead to inflammation, encouraging cells to divide more often. Over time, this will increase the risk of cancer.

While we are focusing on cancer here but this is only part of the story as obesity is a leading cause of death from other chronic diseases too - heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. So we need to tackle this obesity global pandemic urgently, as the more people become obese or overweight, the number of people dying of related diseases is skyrocketing. It’s not something that we can ignore.

Here are some tips to prevent obesity:

a) Stay active:

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activities per week.

b) Eat a healthy diet:

Fill at least ⅔ of your plates with non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or legumes (beans/peas) and ⅓ or less with animal protein.

c) If you drink alcohol:

Stick to red wine and limit it to 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men.

d) Get adequate rest:

Fatigue can make you crave to eat more and make unhealthy choices.

Being obese or overweight hurts our body’s ability to function well. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for reducing your risk for cancer.


Combining various medical disciplines with a host of functional therapy approaches, RejuvaHub (formerly known as Tree of Life) is a one-stop, fully integrated centre specialised in preventing and managing chronic illnesses. If you want to consult any medical advice on chronic diseases and cancer, please feel free to request our 15 mins Free Online Consultation.

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