Ask Dr. Nandi: Widening waistlines may raise women's cancer risk

Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 17:00:43-04

The American Cancer Society reports that women in the U.S. have a 1 in 3 lifetime risk of developing cancer and a 1 in 5 risk of dying from the disease. 

Obesity is one factor that can increase your chance of developing it. But where you carry the weight seems to matter according to a recently released Denmark study. 

Researchers followed approximately 5,900 postmenopausal women with an average age of 71 over 12 years. Those with excess belly fat had an increased risk of lung and gastrointestinal cancers as opposed to general weight gain on other parts of the body.

The study supports the connection between obesity, mainly insulin resistance, and certain cancers.

Uncontrolled insulin levels have harmful consequences on hormone production and excess fat increases chronic inflammation – another risk factor for cancer.

As women enter menopause, it’s common for excess body fat to shift toward your middle area. If you’d like to lower your risk of lung and gastrointestinal cancers, here are my prescriptions:

  1. Evaluate your lifestyle choices and take steps to minimize weight gain as you approach middle-age.  Preventing abdominal weight gain can reduce your cancer risk.
  2. Make sure to eat a well-balanced nutrient dense diet along with getting regular exercise.  These are optimal ways to reduce and avoid obesity.
  3. Be sure to share your family history of cancer with your doctor.  They can evaluate your risks and order the appropriate cancer screening tests.
  4. Avoid smoking and limit how much alcohol you drink.  80% of lung deaths are related to tobacco use and alcohol increases your risk for many kinds of cancer.

Be a health hero and cut back on simple carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, corn and wheat.  Too many wreaks havoc on your system which leads to an increase in insulin and more fat on your waistline. 

Diabetic medication may potentially help by lowering insulin levels and minimizing negative consequences that contribute to cancer.