While only seven percent of Americans surveyed in a recent poll mentioned cancer as a consequence of obesity, local experts emphasize that the link between obesity and cancer is real.
Obesity, which is a body mass index of 30 or above, has been associated with a greater risk of developing several types of cancer, according to Dr. James Swain, a bariatric surgeon at Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center.
"There are several potential medical reasons, including the fact that fat tissue produces extra estrogen and high estrogen levels have been correlated with greater risk of endometrial, breast and other cancers," he said.
Obese individuals also frequently have high levels of insulin in their bloodstreams, which may encourage the development of some tumors, Swain added.
Other possible factors include that obese individuals frequently have ongoing, low-level inflammation, which has been linked to increased cancer risk.
Individuals who are obese may be able to lower their cancer risk through bariatric surgery. The National Institutes of Health, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, points to studies showing that obese individuals who undergo weight-loss surgery have lower rates of obesity-related cancer than obese individuals who do not have bariatric surgery.
Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center, designated a Center of Excellence in Bariatric Surgery by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, offers free public seminars on bariatric surgery. Details and seminar registration are at bariatricsurgeryaz.com.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll was conducted in late November and early December.