Being overweight or obese significantly increases risks of many common types of cancer, but experts now suggest that losing even a small amount of weight can improve your health.
More than 60 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. The problem is even greater in Kentucky, which consistently ranks among the most obese states in the country.
The U.S. Surgeon General's office states that being overweight or obese increases the risks for many types of cancer, including cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), colon, gall bladder, prostate, kidney and post-menopausal breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society suggests that being overweight may also increase risks of developing cancers of the pancreas, gallbladder, thyroid, ovary, and cervix, as well as multiple myeloma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and aggressive prostate cancer.
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Fat cells produce estrogen, which promotes cell growth. They also make a variety of proteins that cause inflammation and insulin resistance, which can promote cell growth and reproduction. People who tend to be "apple-shaped" have even more fat activity, because fat cells around the middle of the body divide even more rapidly. The faster the cells divide, the higher the risk of developing cancer.
Some experts believe that children who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing cancer later on in life than when they become overweight as adults.
But there's good news: The National Cancer Institute states that "even a weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of total weight can provide health benefits."
If you're part of Kentucky's overweight majority, the following tips can help you reach a healthy weight and reduce your risk of cancer.
■ Get active: Physical activity could be the most important step for losing weight and keeping it off. The American Cancer Society recommends adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity five or more days of the week. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes. Exercise builds muscle, and muscle acts like a fire to burn fat and excess calories.
■ Control food portions: We are taught from infancy to clean our plates, but it is often better to stop eating when we have finished only half of what is there. Putting half the amount of food on your plate that you normally would is another way to keep your portions smaller.
■ Plan meals ahead: Plan out meals ahead of time to best prevent snacking or overeating. When going out to a restaurant, look at the menu and nutrition facts online to make the healthiest choice. Take the time to plan out nutrient-dense meals.
■ Make your day colorful: Make each meal or snack as colorful as possible. Adding a fruit or vegetable at each meal or snack will increase your daily intake of fiber and nutrients. Fiber helps keep hunger at bay preventing you from wanting to snack more throughout the day. Vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables also have the benefit of preventing certain types of cancer.