Your Cancer Answers: Does being overweight increase my risk for developing cancer? | Health, Medicine and Fitness


Question: Does being overweight increase my risk for developing cancer?

According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, besides not smoking, being at a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

The development of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, gynecological cancer, and multiple myeloma can call all be accelerated by obesity. BMI is one measure of determining if you are at a healthy weight, but it is not the only way and is not recommended that it be used alone because it only looks at two pieces of information — height and weight.

Another measure to determine if you have more body fat than recommended is to look at waist circumference. Studies show that those with an apple-shaped body as opposed to a pear-shaped body, meaning more body fat is found around the waist, are at greater risk for developing breast and uterine cancers. This is because fat around the waist can disrupt your hormones.

It is recommended for men to have a waist circumference less than 40 inches and for women to have a waist circumference less than 35 inches. There are different strategies that can be used to reach a healthy weight, and it involves both diet and exercise.

To maximize your nutrient intake but avoid excess calorie intake which can lead to weight gain, focus on a plant-based diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Generally it is recommended that your plate at meal times consist of ¼ protein, ¼ whole grain or starchy vegetable, and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables.

Fruit makes a great snack, and paired with protein and healthy fat this helps keep you full for longer and avoid overeating at your next meal. Limiting intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and “fast” or “processed” foods high in fat, sugar, and starches is recommended as these can lead to weight gain if consumed in excess.

I don’t recommended restricting your favorite foods completely either, as this can lead to overeating and binge eating later on. Being physically active can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce cancer risk as well. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Move more and sit less! Not only can these tips reduce your risk for cancer, but other chronic diseases also including diabetes and heart disease.

The role of a Registered Dietitian is to help you navigate any issues surrounding nutrition and provide healthful tips on preparing meals and eating well. Please feel free to call Mission Hope’s Registered Dietitian Melanie Logue at 805-346-3403 for any concerns or to set up an appointment.

Also, join us on ZOOM for our upcoming Healthy Eating and Activity for Living (HEAL) Classes. On Tuesday, March 9 at 2 p.m. the topic will be “Colorectal Cancer Prevention”. On Tuesday, April 13 at 2 p.m. the topic will be “Nutrition and Exercise Strategies for Head and Neck Cancer” with guest speaker Gina Rotondo, Speech Language Pathologist. Please call cancer exercise trainer John Malinowski at 805-346-3413 to make a reservation.

HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by Marian Cancer Care invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here