Obesity and Cancer

Obesity overtook smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer in the United States, accounting for 600,000 cancer deaths per year. Cancer is caused by genetic errors in protein synthesis that result in abnormal cell growth that often spreads to other parts of the body. Normally, cells can correct sequencing errors in DNA. Cancer occurs when these “fail-safe” mechanisms don’t work right. Obesity interferes with intercellular signaling that triggers genetic errors in protein synthesis and abnormal cell development. Anabolic hormones such as insulin and IGF-1, which increase in obesity, enhance the early stages of cancer development. Cancers of the esophagus, liver, kidney, breast, gallbladder, pancreas, prostate, ovary and uterus are particularly sensitive to metabolic changes triggered by obesity. Fortunately, even modest weight loss causes changes in metabolism that reduce the risk of these cancers. (The Scientist, November 2015)

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