Is obesity linked to cancer? Tips to Avoid Obesity and Cancer

The link between cancer and obesity is clear. Research studies have shown that excess fat in the body can increase the risk for several forms of cancers, including breast, colorectal, uterine, esophageal, pancreatic, and kidney cancers.

There are severaltheories that explain why being obese increases the risk of cancer. The higher incidence of cancer in obese people is primarily attributed to the inflammation caused due to the visceral fat, which surrounds the vital organs.Excessive visceral fat tends to affect certain biochemical and metabolic processes in the body. This includes how the body manages hormones, especially insulin and estrogen. This can set a chain of reactions that lead to precancerous and cancerous changes in the organs.

There is a need to understand the link between obesity and cancer so that the importance of maintaining a healthy weight is established more clearly. Here is a brief discussion about the role of obesity in the development of cancer.

How does obesity cause cancer?

Triggers inflammation

Cancer develops when the cells reproduce in an uncontrolled manner, damaging the cells and causing illness. As the cells divide and reproduce, the risk that something would go wrong leading to the formation of a tumor or cancer mass increases.

Visceral fat deposited in the organs makes the cells larger in size. This excess fat does not leave much room for oxygen. Thus, it creates a low-oxygen environment within the organs thus triggering inflammation.

Inflammation is the natural response of the body to injuries and diseases. For example, when there is a deep cut on the skin, the parts around it become red, swollen, and painful to touch.

This form of inflammation is minor and short-lasting. The acute inflammation thus triggered around the wounded region helps the body repair the damaged tissues and aids the process of healing.

However, chronic or long-term inflammation caused due to excess visceral fat can result in persistent damage to the organs thus increasing the risk of abnormal changes that lead to cancer.

Changes in insulin

The impact of inflammation on insulin secretion is another factor that contributes to the risk of cancer in obese people. Insulin is a hormone that plays a key role in regulating blood sugar levels.

Inflammation caused due to obesity can keep the body from responding to insulin properly. This state is known as insulin resistance.

When the body does not respond to insulin in a correct manner, it produces a higher amount of this hormone to make up for the reduced response as the body falsely considers it as the lack of adequate insulin available to it.

The increase in the secretion of insulin occurring as a result of insulin resistance triggers a rise in the number of cells produced, thus leading to cancer.

Estrogen and cancer

Increased insulin levels can also affect how hormones, especially estrogens, are controlled by the body. More insulin may increase the availability of estrogen, thus increasing cancer risk.

A higher level of estrogen can lead to an increase in the production of other hormones that stimulate the multiplication of cells resulting in tumor growth.

Estrogen is essential for the body’s normal functioning. In women, the ovaries form the main source of estrogen, whereas, in men, an enzyme helps to convert testosterone to form estrogen. However, fat cells in women and men can also produce estrogen. This is one of the reasons why obese people usually have a higher level of estrogen.

In women, excess estrogen is linked to an increase in the risk of post-menopausal endometrial, breast, and ovarian cancers.

You can attend our Respiratory Therapy Conference to learn more about the various mechanisms involved in the development of cancer due to obesity.

Some other factors linked to obesity responsible for triggering the development of cancer include the following:


  • Extra weight can raise the secretion of growth factor-1 (IGF-1), thus contributing to the development of some forms of cancers.
  • Chronic, low-level inflammation caused due to belly fat has been linked to an increase in cancer risk.
  • Fat cells can create an adverse impact on how the body regulates the growth of cancer cells thus worsening the risk of cancer. 

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and incorporating regular exercises into the routine could help to reduce the risk of cancer.

Tips to maintain a healthy weight and avoid cancer

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of cancer is to maintain a healthy weight. Here are some tips that can help reduce weight and thus, reduce cancer risk.

Physical activity

Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day can help to reduce the risk of cancer, particularly by lowering inflammation.

All forms of physical activities can be effective in protecting against cancers and weight gain. Moreover, moderate activity, including brisk walking, is also effective for preventing cancer development. As overall health and fitness improve, patients can strive for more vigorous physical activities on a daily basis to reduce the cancer risk further.

Our respiratory CEU conferences 2022 are aimed at creating awareness about the role of exercise in cancer prevention.

Adopt dietary changes

Several forms of cancers can be avoided by making healthy changes in the diet,such asreducing the intake of high-fat, high-sugar foods.

Consuming fewer calorie-dense foods and avoiding sugary drinks can prevent weight gain and thus, reduce the risk of cancer. It is also advisable to avoid fat-rich fast foods, and processed foods including chips and candy bars. You should instead choose healthier options such as fresh fruits and vegetables to lower the total daily calorie intake and prevent weight gain.


There are several factors that contribute to obesity, and hence, cancer. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, which prioritizes making appropriate changes in the diet and regular exercise, can provide significant protection against cancer. 

Doctors and other medical professionals can attend our respiratory CEUs online, to learn more about the guidelines for weight management in order to prevent cancer development.