Why Does Weight Gain Increase Cancer Risk?

Research shows that people who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for a number of health problems—including certain types of cancer. According to a new study, gradually gaining weight throughout adulthood—to the point of obesity—may triple the risk for cancer of the esophagus and stomach cancer. This study also provides information about why this increased risk occurs.

Researchers analyzed data of 409,796 people between 50 and 71 years of age. They recorded the study participants' current height and weight, as well as their height and weight at the ages of 20 and 50. Of these people, 633 later developed esophageal cancer and 415 developed cancer of the upper stomach. Being overweight at the age of 20 was associated with a 60 to 80 percent higher risk of these cancers, compared with those who maintained a healthy weight throughout their lives, and gradual weight gain resulting in obesity by the age of 50 was associated with three times the risk.

According to researchers, weight gain may cause long-term acid reflux and heartburn—which are known risk factors for cancer of the esophagus and upper stomach. Excess weight also changes hormone levels, increases insulin production, and leads to inflammation—further increasing cancer risk.

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Sourced from: MNT