Overweight, Metabolic Syndrome and Cancer

A Closer Look at Weight and the Metabolic Syndrome and Cancer

Many people have never even heard of the metabolic syndrome, cancer also known as Syndrome X. Until recently, most physicians had never heard of the

metabolic syndrome either. Yet this condition – a combination  of blood lipid abnormalities, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar—affects almost one-quarter of the adult population in the United States. The major underlying cause of the metabolic syndrome is obesity, in particular, increased abdominal fat.

Five different conditions make up the metabolic syndrome:

  • High blood triglycerides
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • Increased waist circumference (as mentioned earlier in this chapter, greater than 40 inches in men and greater than 35 inches in women)

The metabolic syndrome is rapidly becoming a significant medical problem because it increases so many risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Weight loss is the only effective treatment for this condition.

Do those extra few pounds really matter?

As weight goes out of the healthy range, risk increases for

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Several forms of cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome (Syndrome X)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Gout

A Closer Look at Weight and Cancer

Recent studies from the National Cancer Institute and other research institutions suggest that over 20% of all cancer is related to overweight or obesity. For years, researchers have commented that certain forms of cancer with a link to hormones (for example, breast and endometrial cancer in women, prostate cancer in men) are associated with weight gain, overweight, and obesity. As summarized in a government report on overweight and obesity, obesity increases the risk of breast cancer after menopause because body fat produces the hormone estrogen. Even weight gain not to the point of obesity can be a problem: gaining more than 20 pounds between age 18 and midlife doubles a woman’s breast cancer risk. The risk of colon cancer and other gastrointestinal tract cancers that do not appear to have a connection to hormones also goes up as one’s weight increases.

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