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Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip has written a journal entitled "Don’t be a man: Do the right thing", which is an ongoing series about living with cancer from Tom’s perspective.


Don’t feed cancers by being fat

by Tom Philip

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? I did, along with tens of thousands of other Canadians.

In fact, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada estimates that about half of our country’s population carries enough extra pounds to classify them as being officially “overweight”.

My personal ‘spare tire’ is now inflated by close to 20 extra pounds. Frankly, I should be ashamed of myself. I lost at least that amount of weight after having colorectal cancer surgery last year and then allowed those little fat cells to gather in me once again. And I’ve done enough research about cancer, in many of its horrible incarnations, to know that being fat can encourage the growth of tumors.

Never mind that feeding an overweight habit can stretch your budget along with your wardrobe, or that your self-esteem continues to slide in tandem with the hastily eaten ice cream working its way slowly down your chin. Never mind that obesity contributes to heart failure, kidney disease, diabetes, respiratory distress and problems just getting around.

No, we’re talking about cancer here. More specifically, we’re talking about colorectal cancer, and the impact being fat has on nasty gremlins like adenocarcinomas of the bowel.

I had just such a tumor removed from my sigmoid colon last August, and was declared cancer free. I really should know better. And if I’m not to be scorned, I should be pitied for letting the equivalent in weight of a couple of 10-pound bags of potatoes settle so confidently again on my hips! It’s not a pretty sight.

It’s also quite scary.

According to a report in the January issue of GUT, an International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, people who are overweight and shun regular exercise may have less chance of survival after a colorectal cancer diagnosis. That conclusion was reached by Australian medical researchers who studied more than 40,000 colorectal cancer patients between 1990 and 1994.

The study showed that patients who were obese, and who did not exercise were 31 per cent more likely to die from colorectal cancer compared with those whose weight conformed with accepted Body Mass Index (BMI) standards, and who exercised for at least one hour a day, four times a week. The same group of slimmer, more active patients was also more likely to be alive five years after the initial diagnosis of colorectal cancer than their counterparts.

Other medical research studies found that physical inactivity and carrying too many extra pounds had a similar impact on other cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer.

A report earlier this year in Foodconsumer.org, an online publication that provides timely information about issues surrounding cancer, suggests there is clear scientific evidence that obesity increases blood levels of hormones and proteins such as estrogen and insulin. That increased saturation of hormones and proteins then stimulates certain non-sex specific, cancerous tumors in the colon, esophagus, liver and gallbladder, and gender specific cancers such as breast, ovary and cervix in women, and the prostate gland in men.

In other words, in overweight people, cancer has proven itself to be an equal opportunity disease.

Still not convinced? In 2002, GUT reported that a study of 90,000 Canadian women being screened for breast cancer found that fat women were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer than women who were not obese.

If you, like me, have allowed yourself to gain weight, whether or not there is any history of cancer in your family, please join me in committing to a lifestyle change. It’s a process, not a one-shot deal, so find a weight loss/exercise plan that will work for you. Together we’ll look better, feel great and probably live longer.

Say ‘Happy New Year’ to yourself, with the emphasis squarely on new.

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