Obesity Cancer Other

The American Cancer Society (2003) estimates that 90,000 U.S. cancer deaths a year result directly from obesity. Colon cancer and breast cancer are both possible obesity health issues, as are a broad range of other cancers. Luckily, obesity-related cancer deaths can be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight.

Breast Cancer and Obesity Health Issues

Obesity and cancer interact in complex ways. Prior to menopause, obese women have lower rates of breast cancer when compared to women of healthy weight. After menopause, however, the National Cancer Institute (2004) reports that obese women have a breast cancer risk 1.5 times the rate seen in women of healthy weight.

Estrogen levels may play a role in obesity and cancer risk. The ovaries produce estrogen during a woman’s reproductive years. Fat tissue also produces estrogen, which may play a role in postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Furthermore, fat tissue may impede the detection of breast cancer tumors, interfering with early detection and treatment, possibly accounting for the higher breast cancer mortality rates among obese women.

Obesity, Colon Cancer and Physical Activity

Obese men have higher rates of colon cancer than men of healthy weight. Specifically, men with high levels of abdominal fat are at increased risk. The location of fat tissue appears to be important when considering colon cancer risk. Women have lower rates of colon cancer than men, but a woman’s fat tissue tends to accumulate more on the buttocks, hips and thighs than around the abdomen.

Physical inactivity appears to be a more important risk factor for colon cancer than obesity. Colon cancer risks drop among people who are physically active, regardless of their weight. A lack of exercise is both a cause and consequence of obesity.

Preventing Obesity Health Issues

The Obesity Society (2010) reports up to 15 percent of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. result from obesity. Colon cancer death rates caused by obesity are also high: Approximately 10 percent of colon cancer deaths in men and 11 percent in women are obesity related.

In total, obesity accounts for 28 percent of all female cancer deaths and 13 percent of male cancer deaths. Despite this, the general public remains mostly unaware of the link between obesity and cancer. In an American Cancer Society (2002) survey, only 1 percent of respondents thought that maintaining a healthy weight reduced the risk of cancer.

Maintaining a healthy weight protects against obesity health issues, including the increased risk of cancer. Eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise prevents obesity and lowers the risk of cancer, no matter how much a person weighs.


American Cancer Society. (2003). Excess weight linked to 90,000 US cancer deaths annually. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/docroot/nws/content/NWS_1_1x_Excess_Weight_Linked_to_90000_US_Cancer_Deaths_Annually.asp.

National Cancer Institute. (2004). Obesity and cancer: Questions and answers. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/obesity.

Obesity Society. (2010). Cancer and obesity. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from: http://www.obesity.org/information/cancer_obesity.asp.