The Link Between Obesity and Cancer

The Link Between Obesity and Cancer


Over the last few years we’ve learned a lot
about the links between obesity and both the risk of developing and dying from cancer. Although many people don’t recognize this,
being obese is a significant risk factor for developing many common cancers. More Recently there’s also been data that
shows that people who are obese when they’re diagnosed with cancer, especially with cancers
like breast cancer and prostate cancer, also seem to have a higher risk of developing a
recurrence and dying from their disease. Although we don’t know for sure whether modifying
weight after diagnosis will have an effect, knowing that there’s a link between obesity
and cancer is important in oncology. Many patients turn attention after completing
their active cancer treatment to survivorship. And this often can include a focus on healthy
eating, losing weight, and increased physical activity. We also know that it’s safe for most cancer
patients to exercise all through their cancer trajectory. Remaining more physically active has been
shown to help prevent people from gaining weight during cancer therapy. And so we encourage patients to be active
during all parts of their cancer care. We all know that we should exercise more,
eat more healthfully, and weigh less. This may be especially challenging for cancer
survivors. After going through months of rigorous therapy
with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, many patients are fatigued. And fatigue can make it difficult to initiate
a new program and especially to be more physically active. Cancer survivors may also be left with long-term
toxicities of their therapy. Things like neuropathy can make it very difficult
to exercise more. Patients may also be left with psychological
impacts of their cancer treatment and diagnosis. Patients may feel less comfortable wearing
exercise clothing or being active in a gym setting. These things are all important to keep in
consideration when a cancer survivor or a person undergoing therapy thinks about how
they can make healthy lifestyle changes. It’s very important to start with manageable
goals. If you’re a person who’s not been exercising
for more than a year, it’s probably not realistic to sign up for a marathon. You want to start slow with measurable goals. Walk around the block twice a day. Build up your strength gradually. Make manageable changes in your dietary patterns. Set goals that you can achieve and that will
make you feel good, but focus on the fact that you want to make these healthy lifestyle
changes and that this is something that will help build your strength and make you more
healthful in the years to come. As an oncologist, I know that my patients
come to me frequently with many questions about physical activity, diet, weight management
strategies. There’s a lot of information and misinformation
about these topics that’s available on the internet, through books. Based on this, ASCO felt it was very important
to develop materials that were evaluated by medical oncologists and other specialists
to provide patients with evidence-based recommendations for weight management, diet, and physical
activity suggestions after cancer diagnosis. And these materials can be found on Cancer.Net,
along with a lot of other information about cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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