Meet our doctors: Oncologist Misagh Karimi on obesity and cancer

March 13, 2015 | by Valerie Zapanta

Misagh Karimi, M.D., assistant clinical professor, is a medical oncologist at one of City of Hope’s newest community practice locations, located in Corona in Riverside County. A recent community health report from Corona’s public health department stated that obesity rates for teens and adults in Riverside County are the highest in California.

Here, Karimi discusses the connection between obesity and cancer.

What is known about the relationship between obesity and cancer?

Dr. Karimi on obesity and cancer Misagh Karimi practices at City of Hope | Corona. Here, he explains the connections between obesity and cancer.

Multiple studies have shown correlations between obesity and a risk of cancer recurrence. There is significant evidence that obesity increases the chance of recurrence of cancer in multiple diseases, such as breast, colon, esophageal and other cancers. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, more than 50,000 new cases of cancer in women and 34,000 in men were due to obesity in 2007. Obesity may soon eclipse smoking as the No. 1 preventable cause of cancer.

Among obese individuals, specific biological characteristics can increase cancer risk:

· Obese people typically have increased levels of insulin (and insulin-like growth factor IGF-1), which can promote tumor growth. · Sub-acute inflammation, which has been associated with cancer risk, is also common among obese people.

Are specific cancers more prevalent due to obesity?

Certainly, breast, colon, esophageal and stomach cancers appear to have a significant relationship with obesity.

· Breast cancer: Obese postmenopausal women have up to twice the risk of developing breast cancer versus women who maintain a normal weight. · Esophageal cancer: Overweight or obese individuals are two times as likely to develop esophageal cancers versus those who maintain a normal weight. · Colorectal cancer: Obesity at diagnosis is linked to higher risks for recurrence and mortality.

How does obesity affect cancer recurrence, outcomes and treatment? Does avoiding weight gain or losing weight decrease the risk of cancer?

Most of our evidence in the role of obesity and cancer is in populations that have been treated for early-stage cancers. Research suggests that cancer risk and mortality from many cancers increase due to obesity. Besides this, obesity can affect the dosing of treatment, and may also interfere with the ability to tolerate chemotherapy. Risk can be minimized, however, with healthier living, attention to diet and regular exercise.

What can individuals do to prevent obesity and increased cancer risk?

When I meet with patients, we discuss healthy lifestyle, including weight control, which has been shown to reduce the chance of cancer recurrence. Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise are the foundations of weight management. Physical activity alone may not result in weight loss, however, exercise coupled with a healthy diet can lead to significant and sustained weight loss, ultimately preventing obesity and reducing cancer risk.

What inspired you to pursue a profession in oncology? 

Perhaps the most inspiring reason was to help patients face the deadliest fear in our modern society by helping them traverse the rough road ahead of them, raising their hope and improving their outcome and quality of life. In addition, the science of oncology is fascinating and will always keep me on my toes.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my family. I also try to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors, so mountain biking, hiking and playing basketball are some of my favorite activities.

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Learn more about the services and specialties offered at City of Hope | Corona.

Learn more about becoming a patient at City of Hope | Corona by visiting our website or by calling (951) 898-2828. You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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