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  Yikes! A good reason to lose weight now rather than years from now, and the importance of not ignoring a weight gain (you know, over the years as the pounds slowly creep up). The researchers found that for every 10 years of being overweight as an adult, there was an associated 7% increase in the risk for all obesity-related cancers. The degree of overweight (dose-response) during adulthood was important in the risk of developing cancer, especially for endometrial cancer. This study just looked at postmenopausal women, so it is unknown if it applies to men. From Medscape:

Longer Duration of Overweight Increases Cancer Risk in Women

A longer duration of being overweight during adulthood significantly increased the incidence of all cancers that are associated with obesity, a new study in postmenopausal women has concluded. The large population-based study was published August 16 in PLoS Medicine.

Dr Arnold and colleagues found that for every 10 years of being overweight as an adult, there was an associated 7% increase in the risk for all obesity-related cancers. The risk was highest for endometrial cancer (17%) and kidney cancer (16%). For breast cancer, the increased risk was 5%, but no significant associations were found for rectal, liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, ovarian, and thyroid cancer.

When the authors took into account the degree of excess weight over time, the risks were further increased, and there were "clear dose-response relationships," they note. Again, the risk was highest for endometrial cancer. For each additional decade spent with a body mass index (BMI) that was 10 units above normal weight, there was a 37% increase in the risk for endometrial cancer.

Study Details: The researchers used data from the huge American Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial of postmenopausal women (aged 50 to 79 years at time of study enrollment). For this analysis, the team focused on a cohort of 73,913 postmenopausal women. During a mean follow-up of 12.6 years, 6301 obesity-related cancers were diagnosed. About 40% (n = 29,770) of women in the cohort were never overweight during their adult life....Women who were ever overweight were on average overweight for about 30 years, while those who were ever obese had been so for an average of 20 years. The authors found that the risk of being diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer rose for every 10 years of being overweight.

The study results of 218 overweight, postmenopausal women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D (like most people) at the beginning of the study found that weight loss (including exercise), in combination with vitamin D supplementation, had a greater effect on reducing chronic inflammation than weight loss alone. Current thinking is that chronic inflammation is linked to various chronic diseases as well as cancers. So reducing chronic inflammation is good. From Medical Xpress:

Weight loss plus vitamin D reduces inflammation linked to cancer, chronic disease

For the first time, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that weight loss, in combination with vitamin D supplementation, has a greater effect on reducing chronic inflammation than weight loss alone. Chronic inflammation is known to contribute to the development and progression of several diseases, including some cancers.

"We know from our previous studies that by losing weight, people can reduce their overall levels of inflammation, and there is some evidence suggesting that taking vitamin D supplements can have a similar effect if one has insufficient levels of the nutrient," said lead and corresponding author Catherine Duggan, Ph.D., a principal staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. 

To explore this question, Duggan and colleagues recruited 218 healthy, overweight older women who had lower-than-recommended levels of vitamin D (less than 32 ng/mL). The women then took part in a 12-month diet and exercise program (including 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise five days a week). Half of the study participants were randomly selected to receive 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily for the duration of the year-long trial, and the other half received an identical-appearing placebo, or dummy vitamin. 

At the end of the study, all of the participants had reduced levels of inflammation, regardless of whether they took vitamin D, "which highlights the importance of weight loss in reducing inflammation," Duggan said. However, those who saw the most significant decline in markers of inflammation were those who took vitamin D and lost 5 to 10 percent of their baseline weight. These study participants had a 37 percent reduction in a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6, or IL-6, as compared to those in the placebo group, who saw a 17.2 percent reduction in IL-6. The researchers found similar results among women in the vitamin D group who lost more than 10 percent of their starting weight. While IL-6 has normal functions in the body, elevated levels are associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers and diabetes and may be implicated as a cause of depression, Duggan said.

Inflammation occurs when the body is exposed to pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, which puts the immune system in overdrive until the "attack" ceases and the inflammatory response abates. Overweight or obese people, however, exist in a state of chronic inflammation. This sustained upregulation of the inflammatory response occurs because fat tissue continually produces cytokines, molecules that are usually only present for a short time, while the body is fighting infection, for example.

"It is thought that this state of chronic inflammation is pro-tumorigenic, that is, it encourages the growth of cancer cells," she said. There is also some evidence that increased body mass "dilutes" vitamin D, possibly by sequestering it in fat tissue."Weight loss reduces inflammation, and thus represents another mechanism for reducing cancer risk," Duggan said. "If ensuring that vitamin D levels are replete, or at an optimum level, can decrease inflammation over and above that of weight loss alone, that can be an important addition to the tools people can use to reduce their cancer risk."