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Nutrition and health

Nutrition and health

Dr Maria Rosaria Fiore - Radiation Oncologist

12 Sep/17

Is it true that obesity increases the risk of cancer?

There is a correlation between obesity and the increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. The most related to obesity that have long been known are colorectal, breast, endometrial, kidney and esophagus cancers.

The relationship between obesity, overweight, nutrition and increased risk of developing cancer has been the subject of discussion and study for a long time. In recent years, research on the topic has intensified, producing more and more reliable relevant results.

The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) recently revisited the extensive literature available to date, validating the relationship between obesity and the risk of developing cancer. In addition to confirming this correlation, other types of cancer have been identified whose onset seems to be associated with obesity: tumours of the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, ovary, thyroid, multiple myeloma and meningioma.

Never underestimate how much obesity can affect the success of a therapy. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be affected by the obesity factor in some way.

Anaesthesia, necessary for a tumour removal surgery, involves many cardiorespiratory risks in obese patients. The dose of drugs used in chemotherapy is usually calculated on a body-weight basis and the risk of overdose episodes has to be evaluated in obese patients. Radiotherapy, which involves extreme positioning accuracy and dose calculation, can be difficult in obese patients. Furthermore, the positioning systems used in radiotherapy are often configured for a body weight range, which is sometimes exceeded by patients with severe obesity.

In view of the now in-depth knowledge of the damage that obesity can cause to health, overweight checking and treating obesity in specialised facilities are strongly recommended.

Is the vegetarian diet an effective solution for those who have to lose weight?

The effective solution for a correct weight loss is always a balanced and prolonged diet. If the weight to lose is excessive, it takes time to prevent physiological deficit in the body. In this case, whether the individual is vegetarian or not, the diet has to be set and supervised by competent professionals. Sometimes, it may happen that the lack of meat proteins in a vegetarian diet is compensated with an excess of other types of food such as cheeses or eggs which, if in excess, can be equally harmful. In the same way, non vegetarians sometimes completely eliminate carbohydrates from their diet. Completely eliminating a category of food from the diet requires attention to correctly compensate for that lack. There is no doubt, however, how much increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes in our diet can benefit physical well-being.

In addition to reducing fatty food, do we have to pay attention to other substances present in food such as additives and preservatives?

Everyone knows that there are hundreds of additives used to preserve or improve the condition of food. Even though today there is a controlled classification of many colourants, preservatives, thickeners, permitted sweeteners rigorously limited to those considered not harmful, the prolonged consumption of these elements should be avoided. In some cases, its prolonged use is associated to an increase in the risk of cancer. It would be wise to opt for fresh food in our daily diet, avoiding whenever possible, packaged, frozen, canned or pre-cooked food.

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