September 10th, 2010
10:34 AM ET

Body size matters with colon cancer

Carrying excess weight in the waist and hips may increase an older woman's risk of dying from colon cancer, according to a new study in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Healthy seniors who maintained a normal weight before getting diagnosed were more likely to survive, the study found.

For an average of 10 years, researchers followed about 1,100 postmenopausal women suffering from colon cancer and found heavier women were more likely to die from the disease than thinner women in the same age group. They suspected more than added weight was to blame. Scientists looked at data for weight, body mass index, or BMI, waist size and waist-to-hip ratio and found that carrying extra pounds at the waist and hips appeared to be more of a factor in colon cancer deaths than overall weight or BMI.

"Women whose waists were 37 inches or larger had a 34 percent increased risk of dying from colon cancer than women with smaller waists of 32 inches or less," said lead study author Anna Prizment, cancer epidemiologist with the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The study also found that underweight women were more likely to die from colon cancer than women who maintained a normal weight before being diagnosed. Prizment is quick to point out, however, that the number of very thin women in the study was small and much of the data from this group was unavailable.

Still, there's much to be gained from the research according to Dr. Peter Campbell, Director of the Tumor Respository at the American Cancer Society who was not involved in the study.  It looked at women and weight issues before cancer diagnosis, not after, he noted.  Many studies have linked obesity with an increase risk of developing colon cancer but not dying from the disease, he added.

"This study adds important new information to our understanding of the role of excess body size and health and underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy body size through out  life," explains Campbell.

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women in the US. Death rates have declined over the past 15 years mostly due to better screening and treatments. People 50 and older should get regular screenings such as a colonoscopy. And maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help people of all ages.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. kyle

    This seems pretty logical seeing as overweight people usually aren't eating their fruits and vegetables. I think it's pretty settled that obesity leads to basically every health problem you can think of.
    This site has good info on weight loss http://www.diet-myths.com

    September 10, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cat

      People who are over weight can be eating healthy

      September 10, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • Blessed Geek

      "People who are over weight can be eating healthy"
      I always wondered about the extent and extant of facts in this statement.

      I know that people in war zones who are deprived that no matter how fat they had been would shrink into skeleton size.
      Principle and simple arithmetic of conservation of matter and energy.

      People with high vegetable diets and high intake of diluted fruit juices will lose weight. It's just whether you enjoy eating vegetables and gulping down diluted fruit juices. I don't understand what the struggle is all about – someone please explain to me.

      September 10, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • Elle

      Kyle, you are absolutely correct. And I could care less about this Politically correct malarky to validate obesity. IT is not healthy.
      And to CAT you are kidding! Right? Or perhaps your cognitive thinking processes are being interrupted by lack of oxygen to your brain cells.
      I don't mean to sound rude but you are kidding, right??
      To: Grizz: Again, your are kidding? The only brain tumor you are suffering from is lack of self discipline.
      The thyroid physiological component to being obese is SLIM!!!!!
      I don't not want to pay for your HEALTHCARE. And I am not a nice person. I don't care of you are obese or the 3rd category of MORBID OBESITY. YOU ARE ONLY KIDDING YOURSELF AND KILLING YOURSELF.

      September 11, 2010 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
  2. Soul

    Kyle, that's an unfair, overgeneralized and patently false observation. It's fairly established that obesity is a risk factor in many diseases. We must also be mindful that obesity may be caused by genetics or certain diseases.

    My wife who is pregnant eats a lot of fruit and veggies and has gained excessive weight. Fortunately that's not the source of any of her health problems.

    Stupidity is still basically the cause of every problem in this world. Of course, Chicken Little might try to convince you otherwise.

    September 10, 2010 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PubHealth

      Sorry, Soul, but I feel Kyle is correct with his 'generalization.' He wrote 'overweight people usually aren't eating their fruits and vegetables'. The key words are (usually aren't eating).

      It is practically every disease that is a 'symptom' of an overweight body. Putting excess, toxic, and unhealthful food into the body where it invariably putrifies and causes gas, bacteria, and other terrible conditions that cause the body to become impacted in the colon, is what is taking place in the world now.

      People complain that "my metabolism has slowed down as I got older." Well...yes it has because they have destroyed the body's innate metabolic system. It has been hampered and slowed by a diseased body. (A bad thyroid is often a result here)

      Also, congratulations on your wife's baby, but comparing weight gain of a pregnant female is unfair to one who is overweight. The body's metabolic system is not compromised during preganancy. In fact, it actually speeds up because of the baby's own introduced metabolic system.

      Overweight people simply slowly destroy their own systems, and as mentioned already, they eventually begin to experience one or more of the so-called diseases of human medicine. The types of disease of course, depend upon one's own body chemistry (i.e. blood type, congenital factors).

      Also, your take on genetics and/or diseases as being factors in obesity? Disease is a symptom NOT the culprit. If a baby is born with a 'disease' it is not the baby's but the mother's who already had it while she was pregnant and therefore passed it on to the baby (alcohol syndrome for one).

      A healthful diet can always do wonders for an organism regardless of the "starting" condition of an organism.

      Love and health
      Mr. M.
      Nutritional Scientist

      September 10, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • Blessed Geek

      Genetics and DNA is a lame excuse. Does it mean that 40% of developed world population have defective gene and DNA? Only <0.5% of population should be able to make that claim. If every even 10% of the population makes that claim, it's called whining.

      Just stop eating. I have seen lots of people who are obese who refuse to drink plain water or low calorie fluids. 8 tall glasses of water spiced up with 10% fresh fruit juice – eat all the celery and broccoli with zero calorie dressing every day. Done. No problems. You can't even get yourselves to drink water. NO EXCUSES.

      September 10, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse |
  3. Grizz

    It's overgeneralization and continuing news articles like this one that affect many good people very negatively. I eat entirely healthfully and am very overweight. For 30 years I walked around feeling like I was somehow "not as good as other people". I wondered what fit people ate since i was eating so healthfully. Until a brain tumor was found that determines weight no matter what you eat. And incidentally, my heart, and all other health issues are perfect and cost the health system nothing. What a shock eh?
    So some like you, Kyle, need to think a little harder before you paint ALL overweight people with the same brush. There are far worse things than being overweight- like being prejudiced for example.

    September 10, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      Well.. looks as if the brain tumor has affected your ability to read correctly. Kyle simply said 'Usually'. You are the exception, not the the norm. Kyle is absolutly correct. And honestly... if you are overweight and eat healthy and exercise regularly and are still overweight, you SHOULD wonder what is wrong with you.

      September 10, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
  4. boocat

    More studies that I don't believe. Everyone is different. I don't know how these scientists get away with this b.s.

    September 10, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dungy

      That's the beauty of science, they can make these claims because they did the research. If more fat people die from colon cancer than thin people, that's what is called a "correlation". I don't see how that's b.s. as you say.

      September 12, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse |
  5. Don

    I am a survivor of stage 1 colon ca., and am about 6 yrs. out from my surgery for removal and resection. My weight had reached about 300 lbs, and I had hypertension, and no energy. After my surgury, a nutritionist from the VA put me on a low fat, restricted calorie schedule of eating, and I lost 90 lbs, with very little effort. Prior to this I had tried restricted cal. diet only. The Low Fat (less than 15 gr./d) was the missing element for me. My hypertension dissipated to nl., my energy levels returned to normal; I can wear comfortable clothes; and my mood improved. The fast food industry does not want this little secret out: stay away from fatty foods. It is actually much easier than you would think, but you do have to learn HOW to do this. You have to make CONSCIOUS CHOICES, which surprisingly is very satisfying. You can't have everything, but you can have your health back. Fat in food, tastes yummie, but it doesn't metabolize well. It stores as fat in the body habitas, and creates heat. Very, very, very little of it breaks down in the system to create energy, so one feels tired (lazy), and immobilized physically and mentally. Moreover, b/c it metabolizes this way, overweight people want to consume more of it, so it actually has an addictive aspect to it as well. This is not a difficult addiction to break, but it starts with breaking out of the fat consuming mode, and making consious and satisfying alternative food choices. Try it–I have no vested interest in this advice, other than to say, I'm so glad I found this out before it was too late, and I really enjoy having my life back.

    September 10, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zuni

      Don cograts on your recovery, my cancer scare was 5 years ago, had same surgery, I also refused chem. because the lymph nodes were clear. I was 40 pds. overweight an ate to much junk , what a hard lesson we learned!!

      September 11, 2010 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
  6. dgatwood

    I'm wondering if this study has been adjusted to account for when the cancer was detected. I could see obese people not finding the cancer for a longer period of time for numerous reasons—poor diet causing many of the same initial symptoms, a correlation between general health and odds of going to the doctor for regular screenings, etc. I'd be interested to hear whether weight was still a contributing factor after those differences are factored out.

    September 10, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Linda

    This is another scare article about weight. My grandmother and her brother (father's side) died from colon cancer and neither were under or overweight. Weight does cause problems, but can't be directly connected to everything. Everyone on my mother's side is very overweight and no one has died from anything but old age in their 90s. Regardless maintaining a normal weight range is very important. And congratulations Don for your sucess. One note about low fat – our bodies do need fat (good fats) to function properly. Each person is different and loses weight according to what their body needs.

    September 10, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blessed Geek

      Mathematically speaking, this is a defective argument.

      Having one or two fat and smoking people living to 80 in a population 100 million is a very poor quality index. Who knows, they might have lived up 110 if their life processes had been better.

      Between 1950 and 1985, Japanese technology gained an upper hand over American and European technology. They employed a brand of statistical comprehension that was developed by American mathematicians which had helped the Allies win the war. Interestingly American companies refused to employ those comprehension until the mid 80s. Post-war American mathematicians in that field had to cross the Pacific to practice their expertise.

      American industrialists then were ignorant of the reasons why the same television production line could turn out some perfectly non-defective units that lasted in the hands of consumers without needing repair and yet at the same time would churn out units that constantly broke down.

      What they missed to understand was that quality of units should not be perceived as individual units but that should include the process and every unit it was producing. Due to some coincidence of luck, there are units which when even subjected to a very poor process would result in apparently non-defective units.

      What we need to do is keep on improving our processes to increase the chances of having more and more "lucky coincidences" – that is reducing the chances where bad combinations could occur.

      September 10, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse |
  8. theantibush

    The links between obesity and genetics seems to indicate that the role genetics plays is associated to food and activity preferences. This appears to be self-reinforcing, as additional weight gain plays against exercise. It seems helpful for some individuals experiencing weight-related problems to preface meals with low-calorie foods prior to engaging main courses, so that they do not over-consume calories beyond that which would otherwise satisfy themselves. It is also helpful to weigh and record oneself periodically, to keep abreast of changes. You don't need to kill ants with a sledgehammer, and you don't need a high-calorie snack or meal to quell a nagging hunger pain. Good luck!

    September 10, 2010 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 26patrols

    Everyone is looking toward the extreme. Most people that are overweight are there because they do not eat right, and do not exercise. Yes, there are some that have medical issues but not the majority of people overweight. I have lost over 30 pounds and a few inches off the middle by eating better and exercising. Forget the fad diets, it is all about total calories. If you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you take in less, or use more than you need (exercise) then you will lose weight. Take in what you use and you will maintain your weight.

    September 10, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. A. Nony

    Until we have the $1,000 personal genome (perhaps 5 years down the road) AND the ability to interpret it in detail (perhaps 10 to 20 years down the road), generalizations will be necessary. and useful. There will always be exceptions to the generalizations, but that does not detract from the usefullness of the generalizations as guidelines for the majority of people.

    Moreover, I suspect that, in the case of the causes of obesity, there are fewer exceptions that the obese would like to believe. I've had co-workers who complained about not being able to lose weight despite "eating healthy". The problem was, even though they "ate healthy", they were ALWAYS eating, at work at least.

    September 10, 2010 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claire

      Food addiction is a tough one, because it's probably something that evolved naturally so humans would eat when they had enough to get them through hard times. And friends, family, and restaureurs all encourage people to eat. Also, long work hours, long commutes, and general stress are so common today, and unhealthy food is fast and cheap. We have created a society where one has to be a military strategist to plan their day so they eat healthy and exercise. It used to be a natural part of life, even for most people in the early 20th century. But we leave it up to individuals to handle themselves, and most of them are obviously not up to it. It needs to be programmed into the culture. Blaming and shaming just results in people isolating themselves, and it doesn't solve the problem.

      September 12, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse |
  11. Penny Stanton

    Obesity in this country, I believe, I most often caused not by ignorance of eating predominantly vegetables and fruit, but by people not having a satisfying outlet for stress in their lives. So telling people to eat in a more healthy way won't work. We need the average American to understand and accept that stress (disappointment, frustration, fear, rage, annoyance, etc.) is part of modern day to day life. When hit with such stress, the best thing to do is NOT DO ANYTHING. People need to SIT ON THEIR STRESS. You simply say to yourself, "I've been annyoyed, frustrated, angry, etc. before, and it passed because either I took a constructive action to solve the problem, or if it's just stress like bad traffic, and I know there is nothing I can do about, it, I'll just breathe and sing to myself." But Americans don't do that, as a rule. They reach for the chocolate bar, or the cigarette (not so much anymore, so more folks are reaching for the chocolate bar), or spend on their credit cards, or gamble, or take a pill, etc. Repeat: we need as a culture to understand that when hit with stress, our response should be to SIT ON IT. NOT DO ANYTHING in the area of instant gratification.

    September 10, 2010 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BlueCornMoon

      Sitting on stress & doing nothing IS NOT the answer. Under stress your body produces cortisol aka "stress hormone",which can cause major health problems.Go here & read http://tinyurl.com/dnz2x3. Also read the stress management info. These remedies work. In Feb I came home to find my house afire when the power came on after a post blizzard power failure.I'd gone out to get firewood for our fireplace. It was a severe trauma. I've been using exercise,yoga,meditation,prayer,music,a return to weight watchers to keep eating healthy & support of family & friends. I'm dealing with it without gaining more than a few pounds.As for colon cancer,my dad died from it & lung cancer years ago before there were colonoscopies. He was not obese,but he did smoke cigarettes,which is another risk factor.One horrible trend that promotes food addiction & obesity is the size of restaurant portions. They're out of control ! I very seldom eat out & last time I went out with a pal our portions were so huge that the first thing we did was ask for doggie bags. I actually got 3.5 weight watcher sized meals out of my seafood platter.THAT IS CRAZY! Fast food places vie with each other to create the grossest,most fattening burgers & meals,knowing that testosterone crazed young men will go for them There are now COMPETITIVE EATING CONTESTS ! Supermarkets are filled with unhealthy sugary,salty,fat laden processed foods that just stimulate you to eat more since there isn't much nutrition in them. Whole aisles full of chips doritos,etc. I got the message years ago...EAT LIKE I DID AS A LITTLE KID IN THE LATE 50'S & 60'S ! Only fresh or frozen fruits & veggies cooked at home, cook your own lean meats by baking,roasting or grilling;fried foods only rarely. No huge amounts of sugar & salt. EAT REAL FOOD & you'll be satisfied. The American diet is horrible. I teach at a multicultural school & guess what I'm starting to see? FAT ASIAN KIDS WITH SLIM PARENTS. The kids come to this country as slim kindergarteners/first graders & by 2nd & third grade they're getting fatter.Now amusement parks have special "tryout seats" so folks can see if they can fit in them & are even making special big seats on rides just for the obese.Granted,everyone has a right to enjoy rides & have fun,but in a way this special treatment doesn't give the obese any incentive to lose weight. Back in the 60s-80s you seldom if ever saw anyone over 300 lbs,now you see them EVERY SINGLE DAY

      September 15, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse |
  12. Jim

    This just in:
    Generally speaking, heavier people aren't as healthy as thinner people.

    September 10, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. AntiWar

    I think this issue goes beyond elective choices.
    As a student, I try to save as much as possible. I go to grocery store and wheat bread is 2.99 as compared to white bread around 1.49. I buy white bread in even it is not healthy choice and I think I will make up by doing more exercise in order to avoid overweight problem.
    If healthy items are cheaper than unhealthy ones, it is easy to address this issue.

    September 10, 2010 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elle

      An apple is cheaper that a slice of bread per you. A banana is cheaper. So start eating fruits and vegetables and just dump the bread. I don't care if it is whole wheat, white, grain blah, blah, blah they are ALL carbs.
      EXERCISE and drink water or green tea. Eggs are cheap and are the perfect protein. And don't start with the yolk, blah, blah, blah.
      Another excuse to be obese and poor.

      September 11, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse |
    • CR

      Aaaactually.... how many slices of bread usually come in a loaf? About 20? Okay. Lets say a serving is 2 slices. Each serving of bread is just over $.29. Find me an apple for $.29 and we're good.

      September 13, 2010 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  14. zuni

    Yea Don! another surviver! Its been 5 years since my colon cancer an surgery, iwas like 4o pounds overweight ate horribly, lots of sweets avoided fruits an veggies, at 55 I paid the price but came through it. People you hav e to eat good foods as they come from nature not prcessed junk that fill the grocery shelves, an keep your weight down to normal. there is a wonderful website to go to http://www.hacres.com. Nuff said.

    September 11, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Claire

    Food addiction is a tough issue, because it's probably something that evolved naturally so humans would eat when they had enough to get them through hard times. And friends, family, and restaureurs all encourage people to eat. Also, long work hours, long commutes, and general stress are common, and we don't learn stress management or emotional intelligence. Also unhealthy food is fast and cheap. We have created a society where one has to be a military strategist to plan their day so they eat healthy and exercise. It used to be a natural part of life, even for most people in the early 20th century. But we leave it up to individuals to handle themselves, and most of them are obviously not up to the task. The evolutionary programming overrides whatever people pick up from hearing about studies like this one. It needs to be programmed into the culture so it is "natural" again. Blaming and shaming just results in people isolating themselves, and it doesn't solve the problem.

    September 12, 2010 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dr_RWM

    Being overweight and diagnosed with cancer is a scary place to be. The Cancer Cure Experiment (www.TheCancerCureExperiment.com) offers hope and a way to move through your fear to work toward a positive outcome. I recommend you check it out for yourself or your loved one with cancer.

    September 14, 2010 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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