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Does BMI Matter When it Comes to Cancer?

11 June, 2015
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Curious what your BMI is before you read on? Click here to find out. While this tool is considered fairly accurate for people with reasonable health and no known issues, if you have a known health condition that could impact your BMI then you should consult your GP or an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

Many of us know someone who has experienced cancer, and know that it is a disease that not only affects the sufferer, but can also take a big toll on their family members and friends. So with personal health (or the health of a loved one) as the main focus, it is often asked: does body weight have any correlation with the risk of cancer?

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and over. A person will have an increased BMI (or gain weight) when their energy intake from food and drink exceeds their energy expenditure from metabolic processes and physical activity. To lose weight and lower your BMI effectively, it is usually necessary to become more physically active and maintain a nourishing and balanced diet. Many illnesses and chronic diseases are already linked with having a high BMI, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

However, more research is being conducted to look at whether being overweight puts you at risk of developing certain cancers. So far, there is some convincing evidence that suggests obesity is a risk factor for cancers of the colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus, endometrium and breast (in postmenopausal women). It is also thought that being above the recommended healthy weight range can lead to an increased risk of cancer of the gallbladder, liver, cervix, ovary and even some aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

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Experts say that carrying excess body fat can affect your immune system and its functionality. Certain hormone levels can be impacted, such as insulin and oestrogen, while factors that regulate healthy cell growth can also be hindered. If you are overweight, and shed some kilos through a healthy diet and consistent exercise, not only will you be fitter, you will also reduce your risk of obesity-related diseases, including cancer.

So how can you lower your BMI to be within the healthy weight range?

The first tip we have is to avoid dieting, as this can be short-lived and is not always a part of a healthy lifestyle change. ‘Fad diets’ will often help you to lose weight in the short term, but in order to be healthy and lower your BMI effectively in the long-term, it is important to eat and drink according to your individual energy needs.

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There are many smartphone apps that will help you track how many kilojoules (or calories) you are consuming each day, as well as give a healthy intake range that will help you to maintain your weight (or lose weight if you need to). If you add in the use of a fitness tracker or heart rate monitor, you will have an even more accurate account of what amount of energy you need to take in each day. MyFitnessPal is a great fitness and calorie tracking app that’s available on most smartphones. Click here to check it out.

Aim to become more active on an everyday basis, especially by making small changes such as parking your car further from the shops, choosing the stairs over the lift, and walking or riding to work instead of driving. Try also to focus on making healthier food choices and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to help lower your overall energy intake.

Making these changes will help you to become generally healthier, and potentially reduce your odds of contracting cancer of cardiovascular disease.

Members of CBHS Health Fund can get help reducing their BMI through the CBHS Health and  Wellness Team at
wellness@cbhs.com.au or by calling 1300 654 123.

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