Weight loss: How losing weight curbs your risk of getting cancer, according to science

An intensive lifestyle intervention can help you lose weight and target your risk of getting cancer in later life

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Carrying a bit of extra weight around your middle has long been linked to risks of cancer. Cancer Research UK states cancer is more likely to occur in the bodies of overweight people than those of a healthy weight, as the more fat cells you store, the more your cells are encouraged to divide, which eventually leads to cancerous growths. 

However, a new study has found an intensive lifestyle intervention helping you to lose weight fast can tackle your risk of cancer.

The study, published in the journal Obesity earlier this year, looked at the effect of weight loss interventions on participant's risk of cancer – specifically, lifestyle-related risk which is related to being overweight or obese. 

Almost 5,000 participants with a BMI of 25 or greater were subjected to either diabetes-related education and counselling or an intensive lifestyle intervention, or ILI. The intervention asked for people to do 175 minutes of physical activity and reduce their calorie intake, aiming for a sustained 7% weight loss. 

After five years, the ILI group's cancer risk was 16 per cent lower. It's thought to be thanks to the sustained weight loss achieved through the intervention, lowering the risk being overweight and obese poses to getting cancers like bowel, breast and prostate.

Hsin-Chieh "Jessica" Yeh, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., said: "Healthcare providers should be encouraged to provide such counseling or refer patients with obesity to intervention programs that help people manage their weight. 

"Moreover, establishing an environment with easier access to healthy food and physical activities is the foundation of obesity and cancer prevention."

Yeh is the corresponding author of the study.

Lose weight

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It's clear how dramatic shifts in lifestyle can lengthen our lives and improve our chances of not getting cancer, but you don't need to be part of a scientific study to make that shift and start losing weight fast.

Fit&Well has a whole bunch of great weight loss advice you can turn to, starting with our list of the best exercises for weight loss. After that, you can put together your own four-week HIIT plan, and look up some top anti-cancer nutritional info. 

For example, the catechins in green tea helps boost your metabolism, fight cancer and lose weight fast. You can also examine the benefits and drawbacks of whole diet philosophies, such as the carnivore and Mediterranean diets, to find an approach that's right for you. 


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Food journalling, the process of recording what you eat, has also been found to effectively double the average person's weight loss progress. if you're not sure where to start on your newfound weight loss journey, simply grab a notepad and start scribbling down what you've eaten today. 

From there, you can add in a slow exercise plan, such as walking to lose weight, track your progress using a fitness tracker or Fitbit smart device, and making some simple, healthy food swaps. Good luck!

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.