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Colon Cancer and Weight

Maintaining a Healthy Weight is One Way to Help Prevent Colon Cancer

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Updated August 13, 2009

Colon Cancer and Weight

You may not immediately make the connection between colon cancer and weight, but along with regular screening, regular exercise, and eating right, maintaining a healthy body weight is an important part of every colon cancer prevention plan.

Body Weight and Colon Cancer Risk

Keeping your weight in a healthy range can help keep colon cancer at bay.

How Do I Know if I’m at a Healthy Body Weight?

The best way to determine a healthy body weight is to look at your body mass index or BMI. In addition to this, look at your general body shape.

These two things, which tell you how much fat you’re carrying overall and where on your body you’re carrying extra body weight, will determine whether your body weight is increasing your risk of colon cancer.

What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?

Body mass index (BMI) is a way of looking at body weight, adjusted for height. This makes sense, because a taller person should weigh more than a shorter person.

To calculate your BMI, use our handy body mass index calculator. Once you know your BMI, you can determine if you fall into a healthy weight range for your height and gender.

The standards for body mass index (BMI), in kilograms per meter squared (kg/m2) are:

For Men
If your BMI is less than 20, you are underweight
If your BMI falls between 20 and 24.9, you are at a healthy body weight
If your BMI falls between 25 and 30, you are overweight
If your BMI is more than 30, you are obese

For Women
If your BMI is less than 19, you are underweight
If your BMI falls between 19 and 24.9, you are at a healthy body weight
If your BMI falls between 25 and 30, you are overweight
If your BMI is more than 30, you are obese

Why Does Body Shape Matter for Colon Cancer Risk?

Body shape refers to how you carry extra weight. You may have heard about the two general body shapes -- the “apple” and the “pear.” Apples tend to be “apple-shaped,” carry excess body weight in their chest and abdomen, and look heavier on the top. Pears tend to be “pear-shaped,” carry excess body weight in their butt and thighs, and look heavier on the bottom.

Body shape matters because fat carried in the upper body is worse for health than fat carried in the lower body. Dozens of studies tell us that having an apple-shaped body increases the risk of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and several cancer types, including colon cancer.

Another quick and easy way to examine body shape is to consider waist circumference in inches. For men, if the widest part of the waist is more than 40 inches, this contributes to increased colon cancer risk. For women, waist measurement should not exceed 35 inches in order to ensure good health.

The Bottom Line on Colon Cancer and Weight

Many health experts agree that the most important way to take care of health and reduce risk of colon and other cancers is to maintain a healthy body weight. Additionally, make sure you’re only eating apples, not looking like one!

Sources

Bray GA, Gray DS. Obesity. Part I--Pathogenesis. West J Med 1988 149:429-41.

Kim Y, Kim Y, Lee S. An association between colonic adenoma and abdominal obesity: a cross-sectional study. BMC Gastroenterol 2009 9:4.

Moore LL, Bradlee ML, Singer MR, Splansky GL, Proctor MH, Ellison RC, Kreger BE. BMI and waist circumference as predictors of lifetime colon cancer risk in Framingham Study adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2004 28:559-67.

Pan SY, DesMeules M. Energy intake, physical activity, energy balance, and cancer: epidemiologic evidence. Methods Mol Biol 2009 472:191-215.

The American Institute for Cancer Research. A Healthy Weight. Accessed: Mar 2, 2009.
http://www.aicr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=dc_oo_home

The American Cancer Society. Cancer Prevention. Accessed: Mar 23, 2009.
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/ped_1.asp

The American Cancer Society. Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment. Accessed: Mar 2, 2009.
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/mbc/content/MBC_6_2x_FAQ_Nutrition_and_Physical_Activity.asp

The American Cancer Society. Prevention & Detection Programs. Accessed: Mar 2, 2009.
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/ped_1_4.asp

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