Maintain a healthy body weight

Obesity is a risk factor for a number of different cancers. A healthy body weight is important for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence and improving survival. The health risk associated with your body weight can be estimated using different techniques including waist circumference and body mass index (BMI). To calculate your BMI, go to healthdirect.gov.au and search for BMI calculator.

Keep in mind that some cancer treatments can affect your weight and waist circumference. Some people expect to lose weight during cancer treatment, but for many people it can have the opposite effect. Weight gained during cancer treatment can be difficult to lose because of fatigue and other challenges after cancer treatment. Whether you have lost or gained weight, it is important to work towards getting back to a healthy weight.

Treatment for some cancers can affect your ability to eat, digest food and absorb essential nutrients. You will need to try different foods and ways of eating to find out what works for you. You may need to change your eating habits, such as eating smaller meals more often throughout the day.

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Waist circumference and health risk

Having fat around the abdomen or waist, regardless of your body size, means you are more likely to develop certain obesity-related health conditions, including cancer. Some cancer types are also associated with increased fat around the hips and buttocks.

Waist circumference can be used to indicate health risk. Place a measuring tape around your waist at the narrowest point between the lower rib and the top of the hips at the end of a normal breath.

Health risk Men Women
Increased 94 cm or more 80 cm or more
Substantially increased 102 cm or more 88 cm or more

Seeing a dietitian

Dietitians can help you with nutritional concerns, any ongoing problems with food and eating, or supervised weight loss. They are available in all public hospitals, and some private hospitals and community health centres. Ask at your local centre or see your GP for a referral. To find an Accredited Practising Dietitian in your area or with experience in particular problems, call the Dietitians Association of Australia on 1800 812 942. Ask about Medicare rebates.


This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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