Cancer is something that feared and we would like to do what we can to prevent cancer if that is possible. There is so much that is not known about all the factors that come together to cause cancer in an individual but there are known lifestyle risk factors we indeed have control over and can limit our exposures to. The most well known are cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
A less well known risk factor is being medically overweight. Excess weight is a risk factor for cancer including breast, endometrial, kidney, gallbladder, esophagus, pancreas, thyroid, colon and certain lymphomas. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 estimated that the proportion of all deaths from cancer attributed to overweight and obesity in adults 50 and older may have been as high as 14% for men and 20% for women. The authors of that study stated that more than 90,000 deaths per year from cancer might be avoided if everyone in the adult population could maintain a body mass index BMI of 25, which is normal weight, throughout life. Right now in the US, more than two thirds of adults have a BMI higher than 25.
Excess weight contributes to cancer risk through several mechanisms. Higher levels of body fat can lead to higher levels of hormones which can fuel cancer. One of these hormones is estrogen which increases as body fat increases. Women have three types of estrogen circulating in their bodies: estradiol, estrone and estriol. In premenopausal years, estradiol is the prominent estrogen that is produced by the ovaries. In postmenopausal years, when the ovaries stop making estrogen, women convert androgens (which are other hormones secreted by the adrenal glands) into estrogen in fat tissues. The estrogen which is produced in not estradiol, it is estrone.
Estrone is considered by some researchers to be more carcinogenic as it stimulates most strongly the estrogen receptors on breast cells which promote breast cell proliferation or growth. Research from a study done in 2002 showed that higher levels of all circulating estrogens in postmenopausal women were associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. This study was assessing endogenous estrogen meaning estrogen that were present in the body naturally, none of these women were on any hormone therapy. High estrogen levels are also a strong risk factor for endometrial cancer.
Although we associate estrogen levels with women, breast cancer can develop in men as well. Testosterone and other androgens are converted into estrogen in excess body fat in men and the higher the level of body fat, the higher the level of estrogen.
Another hormone that is increased by excess weight and body fat is the hormone insulin. Most people who are overweight have higher circulating levels of insulin, which is a growth hormone that can fuel cancer development.
Insulin is the hormone responsible for moving glucose into our cells for energy. Insulin also helps our body store fat. I have found that the vast majority of my patients who struggle with weight have evidence of a metabolic dysfunction I have called The MD Factor. With this condition, your body makes insulin but your cells do not respond to it properly. When this happens your body doesn’t
realize it has plenty of insulin and it makes more insulin. Both functions of insulin, as a growth hormone and a fat storage hormone, are likely responsible for increasing cancer risk.
The Good News?
Although I have clearly highlighted that a higher weight is linked to higher chances of developing cancer, there is good news: weight can be lost. Incredibly, 89% of my patients had lab evidence of the MD Factor when they entered my practice. This common condition is caused by genetics, aging, hormone changes with age like menopause, and from gaining belly fat.
With the meal plan I use in my practice, my patients have been able to lose weight, and lower insulin levels and estrogen levels. We are able to easily monitor markers like insulin and prove that these abnormal growth hormone levels are declining with lifestyle changes and weight loss. There is also great evidence that regular physical exercise is preventive for certain cancers such as breast cancer. In addition, there is some evidence that deficiencies of certain vitamins, like vitamin D, could be a risk factor for cancer so assessing vitamin levels and replacing deficient nutrients can be a valuable part of a comprehensive health promotion plan.
Medical Wellness center