Obesity doesn’t just increase postmenopausal women’s risk of developing colon cancer, it might even raise their risk of dying from it, scientists say
That analysis comes from researchers at the University of Minnesota, who culled data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study on 1,096 cases of colon cancer diagnosed between 1986 and 2005. Of the 489 women who died, 289 of them died from colon cancer.
To see whether obesity had anything to do with those deaths, the researchers documented each woman’s body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio and waistline. They found that obese women were 45% more likely to die than their healthy-weight counterparts.
The researchers noted belly fat’s particular link to mortality rates; those women with a high waist-to-hip ratio had a 30%-40% increased chance of dying specifically because of colon cancer.
The findings were published online Wednesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
Lead author Anna E. Prizment, an epidemiologist with the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, said in a release that there was no proof that losing weight after being diagnosed would lower women’s mortality risk.
“Therefore, it’s best to maintain a normal, healthy body weight throughout life,” she said in the release.
That doesn’t mean going on a crash diet and emaciating yourself; the term “healthy body weight” is the key here. Being underweight is also dangerous: Underweight women diagnosed with colon cancer were 89% more likely to die of any cause than women with a normal BMI.
This means eating good food, drinking water and exercising regularly. If you’re unsure about how to start, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a few pointers on healthy food and physical activity.