Obesity and Cancer Risk

AICR's report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, and its continuous updates found a strong link between excess body fat and increased risk for cancers of the:

  • esophagus
  • pancreas
  • colon and rectum
  • endometrium
  • kidney
  • postmenopausal breast
  • gallbladder
  • ovarian
  • liver
  • prostate (advanced)
  • stomach 

Because of the overwhelming evidence, AICR recommends maintaining a healthy weight throughout life to best reduce your chances of developing cancer. Read the full list of AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.

Laboratory studies help to explain why being overweight increases your cancer risk. The fat we store on our bodies is not an inert mass. Fat cells produce estrogen, which promotes cell growth. They also produce a variety of proteins that cause inflammation and insulin resistance, which in turn promote cell growth and cell reproduction. Fat at the waist is even more active in producing these growth stimulants. So overweight people – particularly if they are apple-shaped – have high levels of substances circulating in their blood that stimulate cell division. The more often cells divide, the more opportunity there is for cancer to develop.

AICR experts stress that this potentially dangerous condition is preventable. Aside from not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the single most important way to protect against cancer. At a time when two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, making changes to lower your cancer risk by preventing weight gain is more important than ever.

The following lifestyle modifications can help: