A new study out of the Hokkaido University suggests that obesity may in fact intensify the development of cancer. Obesity has long been linked to a number of health consequences, including cancer. However, until now it was unknown how an overweight person's body may or may not initiate cancer, according to a press release on the study. The research proposes that carrying additional weight may further the growth of cancer cells.
A Natural Defense
When cells that are possibly malignant appear to be present, cells lining the body's organs known as "epithelial" cells are equipped to get rid of them. According to the press release, this process is known as "epithelial defense against cancer" process. In this study, researchers set out to analyze how this form of self-defense is impacted in the case of obesity.
The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, found that in mice that were fed high-fat diets, the epithelial process no longer worked as it should. In the study, the cells of these mice were not able to properly push out harmful cells from the intestines and pancreas. This did not hold true for the lungs, however, leading the researchers to believe that obesity plays more of a role in intestinal and pancreatic cancer, aligning with previous research on obesity.
"This is the first report to show that obesity and chronic inflammation can influence competitive interaction between normal cells and transformed cells," said lead study author Yasuyuki Fujita. "It implies other factors such as infection, smoking, sleeping patterns and aging may also affect cell competition."
It remains to be seen how losing weight would impact existing cancer cells.
Obesity and Cancer Risk
Whether or not the conclusions from the study hold true, obesity remains a risk factor for a number of diseases and health concerns. According to the American Cancer Society, obesity has a clear correlation with cancers of the pancreas, kidney, colon and rectum, endometrium and breast in women in post-menopause. Being overweight has been linked to several other types of cancer as well. Close to 8 percent of cancer cases and 7 percent of cancer deaths across the country are thought to be the result of obesity.
One of the most effective ways to reduce obesity is to focus on a wholesome and primarily raw, plant-based diet. Not only can these food sources help with weight loss, but they also provide a number of protective and preventative benefits that include strengthening the immune system and fighting off disease. Moreover, a plant-based diet removes some of the most harmful cancer-causing foods like meat and processed snacks.