Obesity and Cancer


For many years, people did not think of obesity as a risk factor for cancer.  The most common illnesses associated with obesity have typically been coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a number of other chronic diseases  However, as a result of ongoing research, it is clear that there is a direct link between obesity and certain cancer.   

According to the National Cancer Institute, during the past several decades, the percentage of overweight and obese adults and children has increased markedly.  Since 1990, the rate of obesity among Americans has increased from 11.6% to 27.8% (1).  In Louisiana, the current obesity rate exceeds the national average at 33.4%.  Obesity is associated with increased risks of the following cancers:

  • Cancers of the esophagus
  • Breast (postmenopausal)
  • Endometrium (the lining of the uterus)
  • Colon and rectum
  • Kidney, pancreas
  • Thyroid
  • Gallbladder
  • Possibly other cancer types 

The good news is that obesity is easier to prevent than cancer.  A healthy diet combined with even moderate levels of physical activity lead to reduced weight and/or the prevention from gaining weight.  Some tips from the CDC include the following:

  • Breastfeed infants earlier, and for at least 6 months
  • Eat five (5) fruits and vegetables daily
  • Get at least one (1) hour of exercise daily
  • Drink less sugar-sweetened beverages and high-calorie foods
  • Spend less than two (2) hours per day in from of the TV or computer.

For more information on what you can do to eat healthy and exercise more:

To learn more from the National Cancer Institute:

To see your state's obesity ranking: