Obesity a risk factor for cancer: Dr Palanki Satya Dattatreya explains why

One in every four Indians is now obese, shows official data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5).

By Kaniza Garari  Published on  15 Feb 2023 10:30 AM GMT
Obesity a risk factor for cancer: Dr Palanki Satya Dattatreya explains why

Hyderabad: Obesity is now considered one of the risk factors for different types of cancers. Those who are severely obese are 1.5 to 4 times at risk of developing cancers like stomach, liver, pancreas, colorectal, gallbladder, kidney, thyroid, breast, ovarian, endometrial, esophagus and skin cancers.

Research is now showing that reproductive organ cancers like endometrial are 4 to 7 times more in obese when compared to non-obese women. Similarly, breast cancers are 1.5 times and ovarian cancers are 1.1 times higher in obese women.

Dr. Palanki Satya Dattatreya, director and chief of medical oncology services at Renova Soumya Cancer Centre in Secunderabad, explains the reasons behind obesity as a risk factor in all genders and the need for weight management.

Why is obesity a risk factor for cancer?

Excess weight is linked with an increased risk of multiple cancers. There is strong evidence supporting the association between obesity and cancers. Visceral fat found in the abdominal cavity is a concern as it is around the stomach, liver, and intestines. In screening methodologies followed randomly in various studies, it is found that both women and men have these visceral fat and that can become a concern later. It is also called abdominal obesity.

Is it a risk factor for all genders?

Yes, it is certainly a risk factor across all genders. However, the rates of cancer related to excess weight are higher in females than males.

How and in what way does obesity increase the risk?

Obesity contributes to increased cancer incidence which may lead to changes in sex hormone metabolism, insulin-like growth factor levels, insulin resistance, cytokines, and gut microbiome. Adipose tissue is a connective tissue that connects the body's organs and bones. Due to obesity, it produces excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been associated with increased risks of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.

· Fat cells may also have direct and indirect effects on other cell growth and metabolic regulation.

· It also impacts the kidney

Does genetic mutation also play a role apart from obesity in aggravating cancers?

Yes, genetic changes lead to cancer. Mutations are abnormal changes in the DNA of a gene. Genes contain information to make proteins, and proteins control many important cellular functions like cell growth. Genetic mutations can change how proteins function. Some genetic mutations change healthy cells to cancerous cells.

Does cancer in obese people require prolonged treatment? Or is it the same?

Obesity does not prolong treatment. However, dosages may vary according to the individual’s body surface area.

How many people in India suffer from this risk and in which age group?

One in every four Indians is now obese, shows official data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5). Obesity has increased at a national level from 21% to 24% among women, and 19% to 23% among men. The percentage of obese men between the ages of 15 and 49 years increased to 23% from 19%. This means that we are staring at a silent epidemic.


A healthy diet plan – eat balanced food of fruits, vegetables and low fat protein.

Exercise regularly

Those who are excessively obese and have undergone bariatric surgery are found to benefit.

Women in their pre and post-menopause stage must check on their weight and regularly carry out simple exercises of walking and low-level cardio for proper weight management.

Next Story