Causes Of Cancer - Weight & Obesity

Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help reduce the risk of cancer.

What is a healthy diet?

A heathy diet cannot guarantee you won’t get cancer but it can reduce the risk. A healthy and balanced diet means eating fruit and vegetables, plenty of wholegrains and healthier sources of protein such as chicken, fresh fish or pulses (lentils and beans).

Some foods can increase your risk of cancer but eating them does not mean that you will definitely get cancer. For a healthy balanced diet, cut down on processed and red meat, alcohol, high-calorie foods and sugary drinks.


Being overweight or obese (very overweight) means your body has more fat compared to your muscle or bones. The extra fat in your body doesn’t just sit there, it is active, sending out signals to the rest of the body. These signals can tell cells in your body to divide more often, which can lead to cancer. Too much extra weight can also increase your risk of certain types of cancer, as well as your risk for cancer coming back after treatment.

How can being overweight cause cancer?

  • Growth hormones - Too much body fat can increase levels of growth hormones, which tell cells to divide more often. This raises the chance that cancer cells will develop.
  • Inflammation – When there are more fat cells in the body, immune cells go to the area, to remove dead fat cells. This can lead to inflammation, which causes cells to divide more quickly. Over time, this can increase the risk of cancer.
  • Sex hormones -For women, after the menopause, fat cells produce the hormone called oestrogen. This can make cells in the breast and womb divide more often, which increases the risk of cancer developing.

Fat cells can increase inflammation and make extra hormones, which in turn cause cells in your body to divide more often and increases the chance of cancer cells being made that can rapidly divide and cause a tumour.

Managing weight

Losing weight or avoiding putting on more weight can help to reduce the risk of cancer. You can use a BMI (body mass index) calculator easily found online to tell if you are a healthy weight for your height.

Tips to help you lose weight:

  • Keep a meal routine.
  • Cut down on calories.
  • Walk regularly.
  • Have healthy snacks.
  • Read food labels and understand ingredients.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Control food portions.
  • Stay active.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Physical Activity

Being active can lessen the risk of cancer by reducing weight. This helps keep your body and mind healthy, prevents diseases and has many other benefits for your health too.

Being active and a healthy weight can affect the levels of some types of hormones in the body. Hormones are chemical messengers that move around the body to tell different parts what to do. Oestrogen and insulin are hormones that could encourage cells to divide more often. If cells divide too much and grow out of control, this can lead to cancer.

How does being active help to reduce the risk of cancer?

  • Keeping a healthy weight and doing lots of activity can reduce the levels of oestrogen and insulin in the body, preventing cancer.
  • Being very active can boost your immune system which makes it work more effectively. This means that the body gets better at spotting cells that could go on to become cancerous. It can then remove these cells before they cause harm.
  • Moving more and sitting less prevents bowel cancer by helping us keep a healthy weight.
  • It helps food move through the body faster, so anything harmful in food waste spends less time in our bowel.
  • It reduces inflammation. Inflammation is a normal way our bodies respond to damage. However, if there is too much work, it can cause our cells to multiply more often increasing the cancer risk.

How to get active

  • Brisk walking.
  • Family games.
  • Household chores and cleaning.
  • Swimming and aerobics.
  • Dancing.
  • Yoga/Pilates.
  • Gardening.
  • Cycling.
  • Sports.
Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

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