Fight the Fat with 'Food and Exercise' Key to Cancer Threat; Wales Has Been Named and Shamed as the Fattest Nation in the UK. but It's Not All about Body Image as Obesity Is a Major Cause of Serious Long-Term Health Problems. Lisa Cooney, Head of Education for World Cancer Research Fund, Looks at the Link between Body Fat and Cancer Risk

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Byline: Lisa Cooney

MAINTAINING a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.

The evidence linking body fat and cancer is now stronger than ever before. In fact, there is convincing scientific evidence that excess body fat increases the risk of six types of cancer, including bowel cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer.

Scientists believe there are several reasons for this. One example is the relationship between excess body fat and the hormonal balance in the body.

Research has shown that fat cells release hormones such as oestrogen, which increases the risk of cancers such as breast cancer.

Studies have also shown that fat - particularly if it is stored around the waist - encourages the body to produce substances known as growth hormones. Having high levels of these hormones is linked to a greater risk of cancer.

Because of the link between body fat and cancer, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends people aim to be towards the lower end of the healthy weight range.

One of the easiest ways to check if you're a healthy weight is by measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI), which calculates the range of healthy weights for different heights and is a useful guide for most adults.

A healthy BMI for men and women is between 18.5 and 24.9.

But our recommendation is not a question of all or nothing as the more excess body fat you have, the greater your risk. This means that even making small changes in the right direction can make a real difference in reducing your cancer risk.

We also know that where we store extra weight affects cancer risk. Scientists have discovered that carrying excess fat around our waists can be particularly harmful - it acts like a hormone pump releasing oestrogen into the bloodstream, as well as raising levels of other hormones in the body. …