Health & Medicine

Cancer-obesity link should be motivator

Victoria Meyer
Victoria Meyer

If you need one more motivation to exercise, eat right and maintain a healthy weight, consider the obesity and cancer link.

Two thirds of adults in the United States are obese. This means they have a body mass index (a calculation of height and weight) more than 30. Studies in both the United States and Europe have documented that being overweight or obese can increase your risk for esophageal, breast, pancreatic, kidney, gallbladder, ovarian, endometrial and colorectal cancers.

While the influence of obesity in particular types of cancer varies, the overall estimation is that 20 percent of cancer cases are related to obesity. Many complicated mechanisms for the connection between obesity and cancer are being researched.

It is widely known that obesity increases insulin, alters hormone levels and immune responses, produces excess estrogen and causes chronic inflammation, all of which can contribute to cancer incidence.

According to the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, “Kentucky has the highest rate of cancer in the U.S., and we now know that the most important things you can do to prevent cancer (other than not smoking) are to be active and eat healthy.”

In Fayette County, a large group of people from many organizations across all disciplines have been working on an overall Community Health Improvement Plan for several years. After much assessment and study, the top three priorities chosen were safe communities, employment and obesity.

Much thought has been put into the many aspects that contribute to a healthy community, and in this case cancer falls under the obesity team.

The goal of this team is to make the healthy choice the easy and fun choice. This translates to food choices that involve lots of vegetables and fruits, and activity including walking or riding a bike for everyday transportation to school and work.

The CHIP team will soon launch a new community health survey. Please take the time to participate in the survey if you are asked. Most importantly, look at your own nutrition and activity with an eye to decreasing your cancer risk by eating healthy and exercising at least 30 minutes per day.

Visit the American Institute for Cancer Research — Aicr.org — for more ideas on breaking the obesity-cancer link.

Victoria Meyer, a registered nurse and health educator for Baptist Health Lexington, serves on the Community Health Improvement Plan steering committee.

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