Let’s Talk About Obesity And Cancer — Soh Yih Harng & Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming

Positive lifestyle changes can reduce obesity and cancer risks.

Obesity or being overweight is a main public health concern in Malaysia. The National Health Screening Initiative 2023 shows that 53.5 per cent of Malaysians are obese or overweight (22.2 per cent obese and 31.3 per cent overweight).

According to the World Obesity Atlas report, Malaysia will have an annual increase in child (5.3 per cent) and adult (4.7 per cent) obesity rates from 2020 to 2035. The economic impact of obesity or overweight forecasts to cost the potential economy loss over US20.15 billion by 2035, equivalent to 2.8 per cent of national GDP at that time.

Individuals who are obese or overweight have higher risks of cancers, including breast, colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and other types of cancer. Fat tissues may play an important role in carcinogenesis and progression to cancer.

The mechanisms through which obesity can increase cancer risks include the production of excess estrogen by fat tissue, elevated levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1, and the impact on growth hormones, inflammation, and sex hormones in the body.

Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the chance of cancer. Lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, limiting high-energy food from saturated fats and sugars, increasing intakes of fruits and vegetables, adequate sleep durations, ceasing tobacco use, and maintaining a positive outlook are the main components for reducing obesity and cancer risks.

World Obesity Day on March 4, 2024 is a unified day of action for response to the obesity crisis. Let’s all work together by managing your body weight in order to lead healthier and longer lives.

Soh Yih Harng and Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming are from the Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Practice, Department of Social Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

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