Obesity and Cancer: Another Link to Our Growing BMI

Lately I have been hearing an alarming statement: “The average woman is now a size 16 so I’m not overweight, I’m average.”

What is an alarming trend in the rising numbers of obesity has now turned into a justification. Discussing the rising BMI and dress size was never intended to say that society is wrong in saying the words overweight or obese. “This is the average women so I am just fine” and “Society is wrong to say I am overweight because I am an average American women.”

Don’t mistake this post as a fat-shaming post. I don’t care about your jean size or how fashion has changed how they label clothing. I care about being healthy. A healthy lifestyle translates to less heart disease, diabetes, joint and muscle pains, and healthcare use. But we already know these things are linked to obesity, this is not news.

Obesity and Cancer

What we never seem to discuss is the link between obesity and cancer. There are several research studies showing this link. Not only is there a link, there is a decrease in your cancer risk after losing excess weight. I don’t know why we don’t emphasize this more, nobody wants to increase their risk for cancer. But I would argue that nobody wants to increase their risk of cardiac disease or diabetes either. Yet, it is still very difficult to motivate patients with these factors alone.

Obesity and Cancer

Cancers Linked to Obesity

  1. Breast
  2. Prostate
  3. Endometrial
  4. Gallbladder
  5. Thyroid
  6. Esophagus
  7. Pancreatic
  8. Colon and Rectal
  9. Liver
  10. Kidney

Our Short History With Nutrition

Just a few short decades ago, the healthcare industry was battling malnutrition. We were looking at ways to increase nutrition in children and pregnant women. Obesity was a disease associated with the wealthy, and the majority of the population was not financially well. Now, we have cheap and processed fast food, sugary drinks, and a meat industry based on mass production. Instead of being a disease of wealth, obesity has swept through the middle and lower-class. The healthcare industry now has to transition from teaching patients on increasing nutrients, to trying to battle an estimated 1.9 billion people worldwide who are overweight. Worse than that, there are an estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 who are overweight. We have lost all control over our caloric intake and have fallen into a sedentary lifestyle where people are happy to say they got 30 mins of exercise.

How the Medical World is Reacting

Obesity has gotten so far out of control, we no longer are trying to reduce the rates. We have shifted to just trying to stop the rate of new overweight people. How sad is that?! Obesity is so out-of-control that the best we can hope for is to keep the numbers where they are. In October 2016, a keynote speech was given at the National Academy of Medicine. The full transcript is available here and I strongly encourage you to read the entire speech. It highlights the extent of the problem and can help drive home the point that we have lost control.

The Weight-Loss Battle

So why is it so difficult to combat this epidemic? Look at our society! In 2014 Americans spent almost $60 billion on weight-loss products. We want a quick fix, just like we want that quick meal from the drive thru. The expectation that we can continue our lifestyle and take a magical pill to lose weight is absurd. There is a pill to help regulate high blood pressure, pills for type 2 diabetes, and pills for lowering cholesterol. None of these require our patients to change their lifestyle, why should weight loss be any different?

We have made so much progress in medicine that we have become lazy. If we changed our lifestyle and focused on weight loss, imagine how many less pills we would take. We need to stop expecting the quick fix and you have to do this all on your own. Learn about proper nutrition. Stay away from drive thru’s. Cut down your meat consumption. No more empty calories in your drinks. Grow your own vegetables. Grow your own fruit. Cook at home. Stop buying groceries that come in a box. Quick is not best. Processed equals lack of quality nutrition. With the new year quickly approaching, take that healthy resolution seriously this time around!

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