December 5, 2017 | by City of Hope
Some risk factors for cancer are out of your control. You can’t change your genetic history, for example. But many factors that increase the risk of developing cancer are within your control.
Along with quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to lower the odds of developing cancer, said Elaine Siu, M.S., R.D., C.N.S.C., a clinical dietician at City of Hope.
Researchers are still exploring the specific ways that being overweight could lead to cancer. But it’s clear there’s a connection. Here’s what we know so far.
An estimated 70 percent of U.S. adults are overweight (with a body mass index, or BMI, of 25-29.9) or obese (with a BMI greater than 30). (You can calculate your BMI here.)
Higher amounts of body fat are linked to an increased risk of many types of cancer, including:
Being either overweight or obesity can boost cancer risk, “though studies often show that the higher the BMI, the greater the risk,” Siu said.
There are several ways that excess bodyweight might contribute to cancer:
The good news is that by lowering your BMI, you can lower your risk, Siu said. “Even a slight decrease in weight seems to be beneficial.”
To reach a healthier weight, she recommends taking it slow. “You don’t have to make drastic lifestyle changes,” she said.
Siu recommends avoiding sodas and fruit juices, which pack a lot of calories but offer little in the way of nutrition. Focus on eating a mostly plant-based diet rich in fiber and a variety of fruits and vegetables of every color. And try to increase physical activity.
The key is to start with small, achievable goals and build on them. “Take it one step at a time,” she said.
Reaching a healthier weight has a multitude of benefits – and cutting cancer risk is high on the list.