You might want to think twice before eating that second Twinkie. More and more studies are documenting the relationship between excessive weight and cancer. Recent reports suggest that obesity is linked to as many as 12 types of cancer, and in adults 50 years of age and older, it may be associated with up to 20% of all cancer deaths in women and 14% of cancer deaths in men. We’ve all heard recent news reports warning that obesity increases the risk of breast cancer; however, additional studies have found that obesity also increases the risk of endometrium, colon, and kidney cancers. Moreover, cancers of the lower esophagus and liver, both believed to be related to obesity, are on the rise, and a brand-new study links obesity with aggressive prostate cancer.
This month our Disease Management feature on obesity/eating disorders (page 30) examines this link. Contributing writer Gary Tufel paints a disturbing picture of the obesity epidemic. He quotes US Surgeon General Vice Admiral Richard Carmona who was an expert on bioterrorism and an advocate for bioterrorism preparedness before 9/11. Surgeon General Carmona warns that the dangers of obesity are as severe as the threat of terrorism we face today. “It is the threat from within,” he says.
In an effort to turn the epidemic around, Time magazine and ABC News put together the Summit on Obesity earlier this month (June 2–4) in Williamsburg, Va. Speakers included experts in medicine and science, government, business, academia, media, and entertainment. Sessions addressed everything from diet and exercise to the latest findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The North American Association for the Study of Obesity recommends maintaining reasonable weight for multiple health benefits, but many of us find it difficult to let go of the supersize mentality. As a former devotee of the philosophy (I have been known to order two desserts after a meal—one for now, one for later), I have to constantly remind myself that in most cases, weight gain is a modifiable risk factor. And hey, if McDonald’s can abandon supersizing, so can I!