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Obesity and cancer: What is the link?

Obesity is a result of and can cause several health complications. This is how it is linked to various types of cancers.

A number of scientific studies have revealed that obesity, a rising epidemic worldwide, is linked to the development of cancer. In the past, obesity has also been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. A study by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City showed that the adipose tissue, or fat, may influence the development of cancer in diverse ways, depending on the type of fat and the location in the body. According to researchers, obesity has been known to increase the risk of inflammation, which has long been associated with cancer. Obesity is believed to affect cancer cell metabolism and immune clearance, too, which can contribute to the growth and spread of tumours.

Link between fat cells and cancer

The study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, showed that 'adipose stromal cells have the power to infiltrate cancer lesions and promote the growth of tumours.' These cells were found in greater number in obese prostate cancer and obese breast cancer patients, studies showed. The review also showed how some types of fat are more "metabolically active", secreting more substances that lead to the growth of cancer.

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Another study by the United Kingdom's Imperial College concurred with this study and showed how obesity leads to 13 types of cancer, including that of pancreas and esophagus. The study notes that fat cells affect the processes that regulate the growth of cancer cells in the human body. Due to excess fat in the body, fat cells produce hormones and proteins, according to the study conducted. Besides being released into the bloodstream, these are also circulated around the body and this is why they increase the risk of several different types of cancer.

The study further notes that among the 13 types of cancer, which are believed to have strong connection with weight gain, are oesophageal (food pipe), pancreatic, liver, stomach, colon and rectum, gallbladder, lung, kidney and gynaecological cancer. Among women, breast, ovary or uterus cancer could occur. "The most common types include breast and colon, while the most difficult to treat include pancreatic, oesophageal and gallbladder cancer," said the study.

Greater risk for women

The risk of death in obese cancer patients also significantly increases as compared to that in non obese cancer patients. In 2014, WHO's cancer research agency, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), had conducted a study which revealed that about a half a million cases of cancer cases recorded in a year are caused due to obesity. The study found that obesity-related cancer was a greater problem for women than men, colon and kidney cancers accounted for over two-thirds of all obesity-related cancers and around 250,000 cases of post-menopausal breast, endometrial, and colon cancers were reported.

With inputs from IANS and PTI

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