If you’re in your 20s and trying to lose weight, new research may inspire you to get started: American scientists say that people who are overweight in their 20s and become obese later in life are three times more likely to develop esophagus and stomach cancer.
It could be because of decades of acid reflux problems, heartburn and tampering with hormones as youth put on excess weight. The findings come out of the U.S. National Cancer Institute – it’s the latest findings pointing to obesity as a key factor in cancer risk.
“Carrying excess weight can trigger long-term reflux problems and heartburn that can lead to cancer. It can also change the levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, cause levels of insulin to rise, and lead to inflammation, all of which are factors that have been associated with increased cancer risk,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Jessica Petrick, said.
“The study highlights how weight gain over the course of our lives can increase the risk of developing these two cancer types, both of which are factors that have extremely poor survival,” Petrick warned.
Petrick came to her conclusions after scouring the health data of more than 400,000 people. She considered their height and weight at ages 20, 50, and at the time they initially joined the study. Her team followed up with the study participants to see which people developed cancer as the years went on.
Turns out, people who initially reported being overweight at age 20 were around 60 to 80 per cent more likely to develop these cancers in later life compared to their peers who kept a healthy weight as the decades went on.
People who put on more than 20 kilograms – or 44 pounds – in adulthood were also twice as likely to develop esophageal cancer compared to people whose weight didn’t fluctuate.
Medical literature has been inundated in the past few years with research on how weight gain increases the risk of many chronic diseases from cancer to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even dementia.
Earlier this month, Imperial College London doctors out of the U.K. warned that there is “strong evidence” that obesity is linked to 11 different cancers.
The association between excess body weight and the disease is “significant,” they suggested.
The 11 cancers tied to obesity are:
In that case, the study was a review, combing over 204 studies from 49 publications that looked at obesity measurements, from body mass index to waist circumference, and 36 different types of cancer.
Last August, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) warned that excess weight is tied to at least eight types of cancer:
“The burden of cancer due to being overweight or obese is more extensive than what has been assumed. Many of the newly identified cancers linked to excess weight haven’t been on people’s radar,” Dr. Graham Colditz, a Washington University School of Medicine professor and chair of the IARC’s working group, said.
The latest findings have global reach: an estimated 640 million adults and 110 million children are categorized as obese. In Canada, one in four Canadian adults is clinically obese, according to the Canadian Obesity Network.
Read the National Cancer Institute’s latest findings in the British Journal of Cancer.
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