Belly Fat, Weight Gain & Cancer: The Hefty Connection


Naturopathic Nuggets about Belly Fat, Weight Gain & Cancer

  • Over half of Canadians may develop Cancer in their lifetime given rising obesity rates, as Cancer reigns a worldwide health concern
  • Being overweight or obese skyrockets your risk for many deadly cancers
  • New research has revealed that weight & BMI are not relevant, whereas your visceral fat (fat around the organs) determines your risk for various cancers
  • Alarmingly, even those at a healthy weight can have dangerous levels of visceral fat coined “skinny fat”
  • Visceral fat & obesity are associated with Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease & Stroke
  • Cancer prevention starts with healthy fat loss to minimize your visceral fat; see a licensed naturopathic physician to achieve optimal weight & health


Cancer & Fatness

Cancer is the leading cause of death in North America. In Canada, Cancer accounts for 30% of all deaths. In fact, almost 50% of Canadians are expected to develop Cancer during their lifetime, and approximately 25% are expected to die from it. Cancer & body fatness (belly fat) is a logical & proven link (Lauby-Secretan et al. 2016) considering that 69% of Americans & 54% of Canadians are overweight & obese. Sadly childhood obesity is also increasing affecting almost one-fourth of young Canadians, deteriorating their health and increasing their health risks (Cancer) later in life.

Almost 50% Canadians May Develop Cancer

Belly Fat Can Be Fatal

Whether you’re overweight or obese, weight gain (belly fat) heightens your risk for many cancers. Cancer is Cancer, so does it matter which type you develop? A new study in The British Medical Journal reviewed over 200 meta-analyses to find weight gain was strongly associated with a higher risk of the following cancers (Kyrgiou et al 2017):

  • Brain Cancer: Meningioma (Neidermaier et al. 2015 )
  • Breast Cancer (Munsell et al. 2014)
  • Colon And Rectal Cancer in Men
  • Endometrial Cancer in Premenopausal Women
  • Endometrial Cancer in Postmenopaual Women (Never had Hormone Replacement)
  • Esophageal Adenocarcinoma
  • Gastric Cardia (Esophagus – Stomach Junction)
  • Gallbladder Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver Cancer (Campbell et al. 2016)
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer (Genkinger et al. 2011)
  • Thyroid Cancer (Kitahara et al. 2016)

Being Fat Skyrockets Your Risk For Deadly Cancers

Cancer: How Fat is Fat?

You may be suffering from obesity when you have an unhealthy amount or abnormal distribution of fat. A common way to determine if you have obesity is Body Mass Index (BMI), which is weight (kilograms) divided by height (meters). If your BMI is over 25 you are overweight, whereas if your BMI is over 30, you are considered obese. Although calculating your BMI is superior to just your weight, other measurements are more helpful to assess your body fat distribution. In fact, a new study in Oncogene found that your BMI is not a good indicator of health, as visceral fat(belly fat) secretes proteins that cause cancerous cells (Chakraborty et al. 2017).

Weight & BMI Means Nothing; Belly Fat is the Culprit

Cancer: the Amount, Type & Location of Fat Matters

Waist circumference, waist to hip ratio, body fat percentage & belly fat (visceral fat) readings from high tech scales give you more specific information than BMI & weight measurements. The amount of your body fat, the type of fat and its location are more critical to assess for your health risk. This is imperative to assess as “skinny fat” can be just as dangerous as being obese, depending on your amount of visceral fat.

Skinny People Can Still Have Visceral Fat

Cancer & the Dangers of Belly Fat

Visceral fat or belly fat is the most dangerous type of fat, as it surrounds the organs, including liver, intestines & pancreas. Compared to subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin), visceral fat (belly fat) is actively involved in your body’s metabolism, releasing many hormones. Fatty Liver is an example of when visceral fat can become more functionally dangerous as it can interfere with general health & function of the liver. Measurements of visceral fat are actually the best gauge of health. Obesity & excessive visceral fat (belly fat) are linked with higher risk for diseases such as cancer, diabetes type II, heart disease & stroke.

Visceral Fat is Linked to Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease & Stroke

Cancer: What’s Fat Got To Do With It?

There are various theories as to why excess body fat(belly fat) can predispose you to Cancer including:

Abdominal Fat (Visceral Fat) or Belly Fat  A new 2017 study in Oncogene found that visceral fat (abdominal fat or belly fat) releases much higher levels of Fibroblast Growth Factor-2 (FGF-2) than fat under the skin. The FGF-2 protein causes skin & breast cells to become cancerous tumours! The levels of FGF-2 protein and thus the amount of visceral fat (belly fat) can determine your risk for Cancer. (Chakraborty et al. 2017) In fact, women that had hysterectomies had visceral fat (belly fat) with higher levels of FGF-2 secretions causing more cancerous tumours.

Belly Fat Secretes Proteins That Convert Healthy Cells into Cancerous Cells

Chronic Inflammation, common in the obese, causes DNA damage leading to cancer cell overgrowth (Gregor & Hotamisligil 2011) Examples include:

Chronic Inflammation Causes DNA Damage Leading to Cancerous Cells

Excess Estrogen is produced by excess fat stores which has been linked to increased hormonal cancers such as breast, ovarian & endometrial cancers (Dougan et al. 2015) (Carlson et al. 2012).

Hormonal Imbalances Predispose You to Hormonal Cancers

Excess Insulin & Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) can lead to insulin resistance & diabetes type II, and is often seen in the overweight, obese & particularly abdominal obesity (high levels of visceral or belly fat) (Donohoe et al. 2011). Diabetes type II & obesity cause cancers through various mechanisms involving high levels of insulin & IGF-1, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, excess fat cell hormones (adipokines & cytokines) & altered gut microflora. This has lead to colon, endometrial, kidney & prostate cancers (Gallagher & LeRoith 2015).

High Blood Sugar & Insulin Resistance Can Lead To Cancer

Adipokines & Inflammatory Cytokines are hormones released from visceral or belly fat that cause inflammation, increase circulating estrogen and stimulate cancerous cell growth & metastases (Gallagher & LeRoith 2015).

Many Hormones Secreted From Visceral Fat Stimulate Cancer Growth

Free Radicals damage DNA in cells causing cancerous cell growths

Gut Bacteria Imbalances (Dysbiosis) from inflammation leads to altered metabolisms, more inflammation, immune dysfunctions & toxicity associated with breast, colon, esophageal, gallbladder, gastric, laryngeal, pancreatic cancers (Sheflin et al. 2014).

Probiotics Can Improve Immunity Against Cancer

Immune Dysfunction that doesn’t repair damaged DNA allows cancerous cells to grow rampantly

Weight Loss For Survival

With such a profound link between Cancer & Visceral or Belly Fat, focus on weight loss for health & cancer prevention. It is critical to understand that not all weight loss is equal. Some diets can cause starvation and muscle loss, which ultimately increases body fat. For optimal health, focus on fat loss and muscle gain, to minimize your visceral fat or belly fat. See a licensed naturopathic physician to successfully achieve healthy fat loss.

A Naturopathic Doctor Can Help You Achieve Healthy Fat Loss

Related      The Weight Loss Debate: Exercise Vs. Diet In The Battle Of The Bulge


Bishayee A. The role of inflammation and liver cancer. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology2014; 816:401-435.

Campbell PT, Newton CC, Freedman ND, et al. Body mass index, waist circumference, diabetes, and risk of liver cancer for U.S. adults. Cancer Research 2016; 76(20):6076-6083.

Carlson MJ. Catch it before it kills: progesterone, obesity, and the prevention of endometrial cancer. Discovery medicine. 2012 Sep;14(76):215.

Chakraborty D, Benham V, Demireva EY, Bullard B, Bernard JJ. Fgf2 from visceral adipose tissue stimulates neoplastic transformation of nonmalignant epithelial cells. Cancer Research July 1 2017; (77) (13 Supplement) 2227.

Donohoe CL, Doyle SL, Reynolds JV. Visceral adiposity, insulin resistance and cancer risk. Diabetology & metabolic syndrome. 2011 Jun 22;3(1):12.

Dougan MM, Hankinson SE, Vivo ID, et al. Prospective study of body size throughout the life-course and the incidence of endometrial cancer among premenopausal and postmenopausal women.International Journal of Cancer 2015; 137(3):625-37.

Kitahara CM, McCullough ML, Franceschi S, et al. Anthropometric factors and thyroid cancer risk by histological subtype: Pooled analysis of 22 prospective studies. Thyroid 2016; 26(2):306-318.

Kyrgiou M, Kalliala I, Markozannes G, Gunter MJ, Paraskevaidis E, Gabra H, Martin-Hirsch P, Tsilidis KK. Adiposity and cancer at major anatomical sites: umbrella review of the literature. BMJ. 2017 Feb 28;356:j477.

Gallagher EJ, LeRoith D. Obesity and diabetes: The increased risk of cancer and cancer-related mortality. Physiological Reviews 2015; 95(3):727-748.

Genkinger JM, Spiegelman D, Anderson KE, et al. A pooled analysis of 14 cohort studies of anthropometric factors and pancreatic cancer risk. International Journal of Cancer 2011; 129(7):1708-1717.

Gregor MF, Hotamisligil GS. Inflammatory mechanisms in obesity. Annual Review of Immunology 2011; 29:415-445.

Hoyo C, Cook MB, Kamangar F, et al. Body mass index in relation to oesophageal and oesophagogastric junction adenocarcinomas: a pooled analysis from the International BEACON Consortium. International Journal of Epidemiology 2012; 41(6):1706-1718.

Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, et al. Body Fatness and Cancer–Viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. New England Journal of Medicine 2016; 375(8):794-798. 

Munsell MF, Sprague BL, Berry DA, Chisholm G, Trentham-Dietz A. Body mass index and breast cancer risk according to postmenopausal estrogen-progestin use and hormone receptor status. Epidemiologic Reviews 2014; 36:114-136.

National Cancer Institute. (2017). Obesity and Cancer. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Aug. 2017].

Randi G, Franceschi S, La Vecchia C. Gallbladder cancer worldwide: geographical distribution and risk factors. International Journal of Cancer 2006; 118(7):1591-1602.

Sheflin AM, Whitney AK, Weir TL. Cancer-promoting effects of microbial dysbiosis. Current Oncology Reports 2014; 16(10):406. (2017). Overweight and obese youth (self-reported), 2014. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Aug. 2017]. (2017). Overweight and obese adults (self-reported), 2014. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Aug. 2017]. (2017). Cancer statistics at a glance – Canadian Cancer Society. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Aug. 2017].

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This post is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis.  Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan.

For further information, see Terms of Our Website.


This information is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis.  Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a naturopathic physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan. For further information, see Terms of our Website.


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