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This Could Dramatically Reduce Your Cancer Risk, Study Shows

FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Although cancer isn't as deadly as it once was—in fact, death rates from cancer have dropped 27% in the last 20 years, according to the CDC—it's still the second most common cause of death in the United States. More effective treatments and early detection have improved odds of survival. But experts say everyone has another powerful tool against cancer: risk reduction. Research indicates that certain lifestyle choices can slash your chances of developing cancer. This week, a new study said one change can have a dramatic effect on cancer risk. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Weight Loss Reduces Cancer Risk

person eating oatmeal in the morning with berries
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A new study found that weight loss can significantly reduce cancer risk—specifically, people who underwent bariatric weight-loss surgery had a lower chance of developing cancer than people with obesity who didn't undergo surgery.

Scientists at the Gundersen Lutheran Health System in Wisconsin looked at more than a thousand people who'd undergone weight-loss surgery at the hospital since 2001. Those people were matched with a control group that had similar characteristics—including age, sex and body-mass index—but hadn't undergone surgery. Their cancer risk was tracked for a decade.

The researchers found that people who had weight-loss surgery were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. The largest risk reductions: Breast cancer, reproductive organ cancer in women, and kidney cancer. Additionally, people who'd had the surgery and developed cancer were more likely to survive it.

"It's an important public health message," Dr. Steven E. Nissen, a co-author of the study, told the New York Times. "I think a lot of the public doesn't understand or realize that obesity is such a strong risk factor for cancer, and they certainly don't understand that it's reversible."

2

Obesity A Known Cancer Risk

Fat overweight woman measuring her waist
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Scientists have long known that obesity is a risk factor for cancer. Research has found that obesity raises the risk of at least 13 types of cancer, including breast, colon, kidney, liver, and esophageal. According to the American Cancer Society, excess body weight leads to 11% of cancers in women and about 5% of cancers in men in the United States, and nearly 7% of all cancer deaths.

Experts believe the culprit is inflammation. Fat cells are metabolically active, and one of those activities is spurring the body to produce inflammatory cytokines, which have been linked to cancer. Abdominal fat is particularly dangerous: It's been found to release toxic substances into nearby vital organs like the liver, pancreas, and intestines. 

The good news: You don't have to undergo bariatric surgery to reduce cancer risk. Experts say that losing only 5% to 10% of your body weight is enough to lower the odds of developing cancer.

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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