Healthy body weight and cancer

Many people don’t realise that overweight and obesity are risk factors for some cancers, as well as increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Having excess body weight can increase your risk of cancers of the stomach, bowel, kidney, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, oesophagus, endometrium (lining of the womb), ovary, breast (after menopause) and prostate (advanced). 

Nearly 4,000 new Australian cancer cases diagnosed in 2010 could be attributed to overweight and obesity. This is approximately 3.4% of all new cancer cases. In fact overweight and obesity has been linked to more than 10% of bowel cancers and 8% of breast cancers.

How do I achieve or maintain a healthy body weight?
To maintain a healthy body weight, you need to balance the energy (kilojoules or calories) from food and drinks with the energy you use up from physical activity each day. If you are overweight, you should focus on making moderate, realistic and life-long changes to your current eating and activity patterns.

To achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, Cancer Council recommends you:

  • Eat and drink according to your energy needs
  • Make fruit, vegetables, cereals and other low fat foods the basis of your diet, and
  • Be physically active at a moderate intensity (causes a slight, but noticeable increase in your breathing and heart rate) for at least 30 minutes on most, if not every day of the week. You can achieve this by doing three x 10 minute sessions a day if you can’t manage a 30 minute block of exercise.

Avoid diets!
Diets don’t work. Strict diets usually result in weight regain because they are difficult to follow long term. It is far better to make moderate changes that will last you for a lifetime.

Be realistic about the changes you make and do it gradually so you can stick to the improvements you make. You can still enjoy the treats you love occasionally, but keeping to a healthy eating plan most of the time will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy bodyweight and feel good.

Download the Be a healthy weight-Reduce your cancer risk handout here.