Cancer is a terminal disease caused by the inhibition of cell growth. It impairs the normal process of cell growth, transformation, and even death (apoptosis). Cancer invades cells, tissues, blood vessels, and molecules spread into them, and destroys them. Cancerous cells have been linked to malignant tumors which are quite life-threatening.
Interestingly but quite disturbing, beyond the widely known causatives of cancer (exposures to carcinogens) which could be environmentally induced (radon and UV radiation exposure); biologically enhanced (genetics); occupationally facilitated (exposures to radioactive material) or lifestyle-related (smoking, the most popular).
Obesity is associated with increasing the risk of having cancer and it is fast replacing smoking. Most people know smoking to be a deadly cause of cancer but in recent times, there has been a decrease in the smoking rate (obviously because of the fear of having cancer) and an increase in the obesity rate. According to the new American Cancer Society report, about twenty-eight thousand (28,000) obese men and seventy-two thousand (72,000) obese women have been diagnoses with cancer in the U.S. Also, out of the 544,000 cancer diagnoses globally, 3.9 percent have been caused by obesity.
At this point, it is pertinent to point out that being obese does not mean you have cancer; it only increases your chances of contracting cancer.
Now, intimating everyone (especially obese persons) on the connection between obesity and cancer is inevitable especially at this time that obesity is on a fast rise. Nevertheless, how obesity causes cancer has not been properly documented as the connection between them is still being explored by scientists. However, some probable ways through which obesity can be linked to the ‘killer cells’ have been discovered. This article will attempt to point out some of these dimensions.
How obesity causes cancer
The probable ways through which obesity induces cancer are succinctly explained in the succeeding headings.
Excess fat in the body leads to an increase in hormone levels. An increase in such hormones as insulin and Insulin growth factor for instance has been linked with cancer. Of course, these hormones instruct the body cells to split at a sporadic rate. In the process, cancer cells are birth. Once cancerous cells are produced, the normal hormonal activity that regulates cell growth is hindered. As such, the cells defying apoptosis (cell death) continue to split until a tumor is induced. Gradually, the body’s immune defense system is rendered powerless and death becomes imminent. Also, the intake of excessive sugar, especially in a high carbohydrate diet, can increase insulin levels and in turn, cause cancer.
This body fat is stored around the abdominal cavity where it envelopes several critical body organs such as the pancreas, the liver, and the intestines. Usually, when this body fat is excessively accumulated by the body, it poses a serious health risk to the body. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, visceral fat is a metabolic organ that produces estrogen hormones which are linked to a higher incidence of breast and some other forms of cancer.
Furthermore, these fats impact insulin level (it drives it higher) through protein secretion which stimulates cell growth, consequently, increasing the risk of contracting cancer.
Impacts on immune-surveillance Natural killer Cells
Normally, the body has its defense system known as the immune system. This is an army of white blood cells charged with the defense of the body against harmful bacteria and pathogens. But when excess fats storm a person’s body, the functioning of these cells becomes inhibited and compromised.
According to a joint recent study by researchers from the Harvard medical school; trinity college of Dublin, UK; and the Brigham Women’s Hospital published in the Journal of Nature Immunology, the effect of obesity on the natural killer cells is quite profound.
Their study found out that in obese people, the natural killer cells are clogged around by fat such that they are rendered powerless to perform their defense function. Cancerous cells in these fats churn down the powers of the immune system.
However, the study also discovered through its experimental procedures that natural killer cells can be enhanced metabolically. By providing this metabolic jolt, the natural killer cells are reinforced to reactivate their cancer-killing abilities. That’s the good news about this study as it provided a hopeful insight into combating cancer in the nearest future.
At this juncture, it must also be established that the recurrence of cancer is highly associated with obese persons than those with normal weights. More so, in obese patients, there exist cases of unwanted and more severe side effects arising from the treatment of cancer. For instance, there is the risk of treatment-related lymphedema in obese breast cancer survivors and even death from myeloma for people with a high level of obesity.
How to escape this
One of the keys to avoiding cancer risk is to avoid gaining weight in the first instance (never get obese). You can achieve this by watching what you eat and through regular exercise.
Although, it is undeniable that it is a challenge to attain and maintain a healthy weight, nevertheless, there are compelling reasons to strife to do so. We must know that improving our nutrition enhances the ability of our body to heal itself. It also helps us to improve our blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, hence, decreasing the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Most importantly, improving our nutrition helps us to decrease the likelihood of developing cancer.