Monday, December 16, 2013

Obesity Can Be a Cause and Treatment Hindrance in Cancer

Obesity is likely a casual factor in some cancer, and obesity can make screening for cancer more difficult. Furthermore, if cancer is diagnosed in an obese person, treating the cancer may be more difficult because of the obesity.

We know now that obesity is highly correlated with some cancers. Investigators in the UK concluded that obesity is a bigger health risk than smoking. And in the U.K., it is estimated that as many as 19,000 British cases of cancers per year are caused by obesity. Further, in the U.S., the National Cancer Institute (NCI)  indicates that obesity is related to "colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrial, kidney, and cancer of the esophagus."

Some experts believe that obesity may cause some cancer by preventing the body from properly handling leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells. Obese persons likely suffer from leptin resistance. When the body is experiencing leptin resistance, the body is unable to properly use the available leptin. So leptin can stay in a person's body too long.

And according to scientists in Boston, Massachusetts, leptin that stays in the body too long can negatively affect the immune system, creating a higher risk for cancer.  The scientists' report concludes that leptin in the body can cause an impairment of the natural killer (NK) cell functions. These cells target and attack certain kind of cancers.

Insulin and glucose can also be related to cancer. As with leptin, obese persons are more likely to have higher levels of insulin and glucose in their bodies. And as with leptin, too much insulin and glucose in the body is an undesirable condition that may cause cancer cells to grow, multiply, and spread rapidly, in an obese person's body.

So obesity can cause hormonal problems in the body that can promote cancer. In addition to promoting cancer, obesity can make screening for cancer problematic. According to one study, 'obesity is associated with lower rates of cervical cancer screening, particularly among white women," and "obese women were less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer...'

Further, the study suggests that "Many severely obese women need special accommodations such as large examination tables, but even with these in place, it may be difficult to examine all the reproductive organs satisfactorily..."

Finally, because of the fat tissue, even when cancer is diagnosed in an obese person, the person may not receive the proper dose of chemotherapy, thus leading to higher "rates of cancer recurrence and death." Therefore, treatment for cancer in an obese person can be compromised.

All of the problems mentioned above indicate that there is a role for the obesity medicine specialists in the cancer fight. Because of their special knowledge, obesity medicine practitioners can help other health care practitioners understand the role obesity plays as a cancer promoter, and as a hindrance to cancer screening and cancer treatment.

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