Healthy weight and cancer prevention

How does your weight affect your risk of cancer?

Many people are surprised to find out that being overweight or obese increases your risk of common cancers like bowel cancer and breast cancer.

In fact, after not smoking, being a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to reduce your cancer risk.

Being a healthy weight can also help to reduce your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

What is a healthy weight?

One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re a healthy weight is to check your Body Mass Index (BMI). This indicates whether you're in the healthy weight range for your height, so it's a useful guide for most adults.

A healthy BMI for men and women is between 18.5-24.9.

What’s the link between body weight and cancer risk?

We have strong evidence that being overweight increases the risk of 11 cancers:

We could prevent about 1 in 6 of these cancer cases – that's 25,000 cases a year – if we were all a healthy weight.

Our research shows there are several reasons for the link between body fat and cancer.

For example, we know that fat cells release hormones such as oestrogen – this can increase the risk of cancers like breast cancer.

Studies have shown that storing too much fat encourages the body to produce ‘growth hormones’. Having high levels of these hormones is linked to a higher risk of cancer.

Body fat also stimulates a general inflammatory response, which may contribute to the development of several cancers.

Tips to help you stay a healthy weight

Taking a few simple steps can make all the difference. If you’re overweight, losing even a few pounds will make a positive difference to your health.

Foods that are high in fat and/or sugar also contain lots of calories. One step is to avoid fast food and sugary drinks. Try to base your meals on vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and pulses instead.

Too much of almost any food can cause you to gain weight, so only eat when you’re hungry and opt for smaller serving sizes to make it easier to control how much you’re eating.

Keeping active helps burn calories, which are stored as fat if they are not used. Why not join Team WCRF UK and sign up for a running event to help keep you motivated?