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Bulging waistlines could signal cancer

Did you know bulging waistlines could also be an early warning for cancer? So far obesity was only perceived as a threat for hypertension, diabetes and cardio diseases but new research has shown that it is also a risk for cancer, Jaya Shroff Bhalla explores.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 27, 2009 13:57 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

Did you know bulging waistlines could also be an early warning for cancer? So far obesity was only perceived as a threat for hypertension, diabetes and cardio diseases but new research has shown that it is also a risk for cancer.

Analysis of 221 data sets from 141 articles, including 282, 137 case studies from around the world shows fast spreading obesity epidemic could cause a five-fold increase in cancer cases in the next decade.

“Obesity, which was so far the second most important preventable cause of cancer, is fast taking the first spot replacing smoking, especially in US and UK,” said Dr Paulette Mehta, professor of clinical haemotology in University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who was in India.

Professor Mehta expressed worry at the fact that while smoking related cancers are decreasing in the United States, there is no such change in India, despite obesity being on a constant upswing.

Dr G.K. Rath, senior oncologist at AIIMS said, “Unlike tobacco which has a direct cause and effect relationship with cancer, obesity is slightly different as it kills slowly. The hormone levels are high in obese people making them a high-risk population for developing different types of cancer—Mainly breast, colon, endometrium (inside the uterus) and gall bladder.”

Research has shown that becoming o verweight increases the likelihood of developing other types of cancer, including kidney and pancreas.

Weight is measured using the body mass index (BMI), which calculates weight in relation to height. A healthy weight is defined as a BMI of between 22.5 in Indians and anything above that and below 27 is considered overweight and a score above that is obese.

In men, five kg increase in BMI is strongly associated with esophageal, thyroid, renal and colon cancer. For women, five-kilogram increase in BMI could lead to gall bladder, renal and endometrial cancer.

Studies have shown even within the healthy BMI range, the heaviest people are more likely to develop some types of cancer. Women have a 7 per cent higher risk of developing breast cancer if they have a BMI approaching 25 instead of 20.

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