Cancer Prevention: Eat to Lower Your Cancer Risk (cont.)

Indeed, maintaining healthy weight is very important for reducing your cancer risk.

"There are over 100 clinical studies linking increased body mass index (BMI) with a variety of different cancers," says Grotto. Adds Doyle: "There is an incredible association between being overweight and cancer, especially breast cancer among postmenopausal women, and colon cancer."

Other cancers that have been linked to overweight include kidney, gallbladder, esophageal, and uterine. Being overweight also increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

"People who are overweight have higher levels of circulating insulin and estrogen levels, and we know those are tied to cell and tumor growth, which is why it is so important to get to a healthy weight," says Doyle. When you lose weight, those levels drop -- along with your cancer risk.

With nearly two-thirds of Americans overweight -- including 30% who are obese -- the problem is serious. What makes it worse is that most Americans are unaware of the link. Doyle estimates that only 1% of the population knows about the association between overweight and cancer risk.

That's why the American Cancer Society has launched the "Great American Eat Right Challenge" ( This interactive web site with tips and tools is aimed at helping Americans overcome the challenges associated with being overweight, eating right, and fitting exercise into their daily routines.

It's a Lifestyle Thing

The bottom line is that to prevent cancer you need to look at the big picture. Getting regular exercise that is moderate in intensity; eating a wholesome diet; not smoking; and maintaining a normal weight are the most effective ways to reduce cancer risk.

Together, these lifestyle factors -- along with your favorite form of stress reduction, such as prayer or meditation, plus getting enough sleep -- will all work to provide the best defense against cancer and other chronic diseases.

Published April 2007.

SOURCES: Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity, American Cancer Society. Dave Grotto, RD, spokesman, American Dietetic Association. American Institute of Cancer Research web site. Cancer Facts & Figures Prevention and Early Detection 2006, American Cancer Society. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2005 US Dietary Guidelines.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 4/9/2007