Obesity and Colon Cancer

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Here at the start of the new year, many of us pledge to exercise more and shed extra, unwanted inches. Recent research provides some added incentive to stick with those resolutions. Reporting on a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, Reuters Health Information has summarized its results as follows: Older persons who are heavy, particularly around the middle, appear to be at higher risk for developing colon cancer than do leaner older adults. There is also evidence that physical exercise plays a significant role regarding that risk, especially in women.

The project followed approximately 120,000 Dutch subjects (ages 55 to 69) for 16 years, during which roughly two percent developed colorectal cancer and most of those were ultimately diagnosed with colon cancer.

For men, the findings were rather straightforward:

  • The risk for men who were obese or significantly overweight at the beginning of the study was 25 percent higher than that for men in normal weight range;
  • Men with the greatest belly girth measurements had 63 percent more risk than those with slimmer waistlines.
  • For women, the findings were more complicated:

  • Women of large girth who exercised little were 83 percent more prone to develop colon cancer than those with trimmer middles who exercised more than 90 minutes a day;
  • However, a large middle was only connected with higher risk in women who also exercised little (fewer than 30 minutes a day).
  • "One of our more intriguing observations," the study’s lead author Laura Hughes told Reuters, "was that abdominal fat was associated with colorectal cancer in women only when combined with low exercise levels."

    Exactly why this may be true is not yet well understood. Hughes noted that calorie balance (that is, one’s dietary caloric consumption versus one’s caloric expenditure via physical exercise) could be important. She recommends that women concentrate on living an overall healthy lifestyle, as opposed to focusing mainly on body weight.

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