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Cancer and Heart Disease Mortality Rates; Is It Obesity?

Cancer and heart disease have topped the list of diseases causing mortality in America. Heart disease is still leading, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, although the prevention progress seems to be slowing. Heart disease mortality has declined at a higher rate than the cancer mortality, and soon cancer will be the leading cause of death. Could obesity be the culprit in this scenario?

Several mechanisms explain how the risk of cancer is likely to increase due to obesity, and here are some of them.

  • Obese people tend to have low-level inflammation that is chronic, which may cause DNA damage with time and lead to cancer. Being overweight becomes a risk factor for certain cancers like esophageal adenocarcinoma that results from chronic local inflammation that is usually induced by gastroesophageal reflux. Obesity as a gallstones risk factor may lead to gallbladder cancer. Chronic ulcerative colitis and hepatitis are also risk factors for liver cancers.
  • Adipose tissue (fat tissue) produces excessive estrogen which increases the risk of endometrial, ovarian, breast and some other cancers.
  • Increased blood levels of insulin usually are found in individuals who are obese, not forgetting the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). The hyperinsulinemia precedes type 2 diabetes development, and since the insulin levels and IGF-1 are high, there will be a development of kidney, colon, endometrial and prostate cancers.
  • Obesity seems to be among the most significant contributors to both heart disease and cancer deaths in populations worldwide. The mortality rate can be reduced, or better yet, be avoided if public health officials, politicians, physicians, and patients can create policies, awareness, and pathways to promote a culture that prioritizes health and prevention of the risk factors of such diseases.


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