In August of 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a striking report on cancer and body fat: Thirteen separate cancers can now be linked to being overweight or obese, among them a number of the most common and deadly cancers of all — colon, thyroid, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic and (in postmenopausal women) breast cancer.
Earlier this month, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added more detail: Approximately 631,000 Americans were diagnosed with a body fat-related cancer in 2014, accounting for 40% of all cancers diagnosed that year.
Increasingly, it seems not only that we are losing the war on cancer, but that we are losing it to what we eat and drink.
These new findings, while important, only tell us so much. The studies reflect whether someone is overweight upon being diagnosed with cancer, but they don’t show that the excess weight is responsible for the cancer. They are best understood as a warning sign that something about what or how much we eat is intimately linked to cancer.