Why Can Obesity Lead to Cancer?

How Obesity could lead to cancer

What is obesity?

Obesity is increasingly prevalent now in India. Increase in weight has an impact on people’s physical and mental health. 

Overweight and obese people are more susceptible to:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Cancer

In addition, people with excess weight are under confident and have lower self-esteem. Obesity is now more commonly seen in teenagers, young mothers and menopausal women

Factors contributing to obesity include:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Dietary habits
  • Physical activity
  • Psychological factors
  • Medical conditions
  • Socioeconomic status

Poor dietary habits, particularly those consuming food, high in sugars and fats, contribute to weight gain. Physical activity is also a significant contributor to obesity, as sedentary lifestyles can lead to an imbalance between caloric intake and expenditure. Psychological factors, such as stress, depression, and eating disorders, can also contribute to unhealthy eating patterns. 

In addition there are numerous other causes for weight gain. These need to be analysed before weight loss interventions are considered. 

Is Body Mass Index (BMI) a good indicator of obesity? 

The prevalence of obesity is increasing world wide. Unfortunately, the Indian population is also getting bigger. Based on WHO classification, Indians are classified as obese if BMI is more than 25 kg/m2. BMI is not a good measure of obesity. This is why in our centre, we do Body Composition Analysis (BCA). BCA measures percentage of fat, muscle, water and bone, this helps clinicians decide the best mode of treatment. 

WHO (World Health Organisation) defines obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. A person may have an excessive body fat percentage but still may fall under normal BMI, this is called Normal Weight Obesity (NWO). A person is said to be “Normal Weight Obese” if he/she has an increased body fat percentage but with a BMI less than 25 kg/m2..

Why should you lose weight?

People who do not lose weight and sustain their weight loss may suffer from above medical conditions. In addition people with obesity can develop:

  • Hypertension
  • Cataract
  • Pulmonary disease 
  • Dyslipidaemia
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Severe pancreatitis
  • Gynaecology related abnormalities
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Skin conditions 
  • Gout

Losing weight helps in lowering diabetes risk, lowers blood pressure, reduces knee pain, lowers the risk of heart disease, improves sleep apnoea, reduces cholesterol levels and more importantly improves confidence and self esteem. 

Relationship between obesity and cancer 

It is commonly known that obesity increases the risk of developing a number of cancers. Obesity may lead to cancer of the:

  • Large intestine
  • Stomach
  • Uterus
  • Ovaries
  • Breast
  • Thyroid 
  • Prostate 
  • Kidney
  • Oesophagus (food pipe) and 
  • Pancreas

Cancer occurs when cells multiply uncontrollably and damage the adjoining healthy cells. The actual mechanism of how obesity leads to cancer is complex. Here we will describe how the fat (adipose) tissue can cause cancer: 

  • First mechanism

Adipose tissue can increase the production of oestrogen (female hormones) which plays a crucial role in the growth and development of the breasts, uterus, and ovaries thereby causing cancer. Adipose (fat) can produce oestrogen in both men and women. Oestrogen can lead to cell multiplication in the breast, uterus and ovaries thereby leading to cancer.   

  • Second mechanism

In obese people due to increased fat tissue they suffer from insulin resistance, this means the body produces more insulin to overcome the insulin resistance. So people who are overweight or obese have more insulin levels in the body. Insulin is a growth factor. High levels of insulin and IGF-1 (Insulin like Growth Factor-1) promotes growth of cells in the large intestine, kidney, prostate, and uterus thereby leading to cancer. 

  • Third mechanism 

Obesity is an inflammatory condition. The protective mechanism which helps prevent cancer is lost due to inflammation. Killer T-cell protects the body from cancer cells. However, with inflammation these killer T-cells are not able to function properly. So, the excess fat tissue promotes growth due to inflammation leading to cancer. 

Obesity is not just a lifestyle disease. As mentioned above it can affect a person’s physical and mental health, Fad diets and quick weight loss can be counter productive. Please always seek help from an experienced medical team before considering weight loss.


Kripa N,
Senior Clinical Dietitian, Simplyweight

Dr C.Rajeswaran,
Senior Endocrinologist

The London Obesity & Endocrine Clinic specialises in Weight Loss and Endocrine disorders at the Specialist Weight Loss Centre in Chennai, India. We offer face to face and virtual consultations with our specialist clinical lead, Dr Rajeswaran, who has 25+ years experience in this field. We support people with Obesity related medical conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver, Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction, and Endocrine disorders like Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, PCOD, Hirsutism, Adrenal Dysfunction, Menopause, Pituitary problems and Sexual Dysfunction. Our services predominantly cover major cities in India including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune. Many of our patients say that we are the best weight loss clinic or slimming centre in Chennai. We also offer aesthetic treatments including but not limited to: lymphatic drainage, deep tissue massage, Hydrafacial for treating skin conditions such as acne, sun damage and to help brighten the skin, CM Slim for muscle building and fat reduction, LED light therapy (including red light therapy) and much more. In addition,  we offer health checkups such as our Metabolic Master Health Checkup, diabetes health checkups, genetic testing and VO₂ Max testing for fitness and cardiorespiratory health. All of our aesthetics treatments and Bespoke Weight Management Plans are non-surgical solutions for weight loss and wellness. We have newly launched a Bespoke Wedding Weight Loss & Aesthetics Plan for brides & grooms to be. Get in touch to transform your life!

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The London Obesity & Endocrine Clinic featured in Marylebone Life
The London Obesity Clinic featured in Marylebone Life
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A member of The London Obesity team
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