Obesity has been linked to a multitude of health problems,
from increased blood pressure and heart disease to sleep apnea,
breathing problems and gallstones. In women, excessive fat
has been shown to increase levels of estrogen, which can lead
to the development of endometrial cancer, a condition that
affects the lining of the uterus.
and weight can also contribute to endometrial cancer, and
they are risk factors for cervical cancer, whereas the role
obesity plays in cervical cancer remains uncertain. To test
whether obesity may lead to an increased risk of developing
cervical cancer, investigators evaluated a variety of potential
risk factors in 560 women: 124 diagnosed with adenocarcinoma
(a type of cervical cancer linked specifically to high estrogen
levels); 139 with squamous-cell cervical cancer; and 307 women
who did not have cancer. Among their findings:
- Women who were heavier, had a high body mass index (BMI)
or had fat that was concentrated in the midsection were
far more likely to have adenocarcinoma.
- Women with a BMI greater than 30 (considered clinically
obese) and "apple-shaped" women (those with high waist-to-hip
ratios) were both twice as likely to develop adenocarcinoma.
- Women with high BMIs had more advanced stages of adenocarcinoma
when they were diagnosed with cancer, even if they received
regular Pap smears.
Although larger studies are needed, these results support
the theory that obesity, like height and weight, may lead
to the onset of some types of cervical cancer. Women who are
obese should speak with their physician about ways to lose
weight and the benefits of a healthy, low-fat diet, and receive
more frequent Pap smears to detect the early signs of adenocarcinoma.
Lacey JV, Swanson CA, Briton
LA, et al. Obesity as a potential risk factor for adenocarcinomas
and squamous cell carcinomas of the uterine cervix. Cancer
Aug. 15, 2003: Volume 98, Number 4, pp.814-821.
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