Can Weight Loss Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer?
Obesity is an epidemic in the United States. In 2018, 42.4% of American adults were found to be obese, an increase of over 12% since 2000. In 2020, 36.6% of adults in Kentucky and 36.8% of adults in Indiana were found to be obese.
Obesity is associated with an increased mortality rate as well as a variety of negative health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer. Obesity can impact your quality of life, harming mental health as well as physical. What’s more, obesity costs the American public over $150 billion in medical bills each year.
How is Obesity Calculated? An Overview of BMI
Obesity is determined by BMI, or “body mass index,” a measurement of weight status based on height and weight. For adults, a BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight, a BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 is healthy weight, a BMI of 25.0 – 29.9 is overweight, and 30.0 and above is obese. You can measure your BMI using this online calculator created by the CDC.
Being obese, or having a BMI of 30.0 and above, has been considered a risk factor of developing colorectal cancer for years. However, few studies to date have examined the effects of weight change, such as significant weight loss or gain, on the risk of developing cancer.
The Latest Research on the Health Benefits of Weight Loss
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland found that weight loss may greatly reduce the risk of developing precancerous polyps (adenomas). They examined the effects of weight loss and weight gain throughout several periods of adulthood for 154,942 American adults. For those who were initially overweight and lost weight over time, the risk of developing certain types of adenomas was reduced by 46%. For those who gained weight in adulthood, the risk of developing adenomas was increased by 30%. Interestingly, these findings were generally more statistically significant in men than women.
Why is obesity associated with higher risk of developing adenomas? One factor, as discussed by Dr. Kathryn Hughes Barry, a co-author of the study, is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is associated with obesity. “[Insulin resistance] can increase cell growth and reduce the chance of cell death, changes that are linked with increased chances of developing cancer. Insulin resistance may also lead to type 2 diabetes, which is considered an independent risk factor for colorectal cancer.”
In addition to reducing the risk of developing precancerous polyps, losing weight in adulthood can improve your energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence, according to CDC data. Even modest weight loss can result in positive health benefits, such as improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you are interested in learning our tips for healthy weight loss, watch this informative video featuring Dr. Sunana Sohi of Gastroenterology Health Partners or check out the CDC’s step-by-step guide to healthy weight loss here.
In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, getting a regular colon cancer screening is another important practice in the prevention of colon cancer. When it comes to colon cancer screenings, the experienced medical team at Gastroenterology Health Partners is here to serve you. To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Southern Indiana or Kentucky, contact a Gastroenterology Health Partners location near you.