Cancer Prevention and the Hidden Risk of Obesity

Obesity has become one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35% of American adults are considered obese today, and rates of this disease among children are also increasing. VIVUS' Qsymia, an obesity drug that became available to physicians last September, and Arena Pharmaceuticals' Belviq, another FDA-approved drug for the treatment of obesity that should be launched in the coming weeks, are two new medications that can be prescribed in the fight against this disease. Both drugs are indicated for patients who are either obese, or overweight (i.e., BMI more than 27) and also suffer from hypertension, diabetes, or high levels of cholesterol in their bloodstream.

This may not be a surprise, since obesity is commonly associated with heart problems and cholesterol, but did you know that obesity can also lead to specific types of cancer? The World Cancer Research Fund states that overweight or obese patients can be at increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, kidney, and breast cancers. Whether obesity-fighting drugs will be able to play a direct role in mitigating this risk going forward is debatable, but preventing and treating this disease in the future is one component in the fight against cancer.

Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, author of the book A World Without Cancer, discusses this topic with Motley Fool analyst Max Macaluso in the following video. A transcript is provided below the video.

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Max Macaluso: Let's talk a little bit about obesity. I think a lot of people might not realize that obesity is linked to certain types of cancers.

Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo: Yes. Obesity is linked to quite a few cancers. Scientists have pointed to the fact that breast cancer and colon cancer are definitely linked to obesity, but there are many other cancers that are as well.

What do we want to do? How do we avoid this epidemic? Do you realize, in the past 30 years the rate of obesity among children has tripled, and it has doubled for adults? Everyone agrees we have an epidemic. What do we do about it?

It's all about education, isn't it? We have to start with our very youngest children, teaching them what is a healthful diet. It's not a bag of chips at every meal. It's not a can of soda at every meal. If children don't have the tools, the strategies, how can we expect them to eat healthfully?

Often times, what children learn in school in terms of vegetables and a plant-based diet, they will take home and they will be the teachers for their parents and caregivers. Isn't that a wonderful thing?

I really feel education is the key here. I know the First Lady has made great strides in helping to get people moving, especially children, and help them to eat healthfully. I think we need more partnership from industry and a lot of the stakeholders here. We all need to work hard around this.

Macaluso: Once again, focused more on prevention than treatments.

Cuomo: Prevention is so important. Prevention is much more cost effective. In 2010, we spent $125 billion on cancer care. That's 5% of all health care expenditure and 10% of all Medicare expenditure. It's unsustainable.

At this point in time, we spend 18% of our gross domestic product on health care itself. We all agree it's unsustainable. How are we going to change it? This is one way; by focusing on prevention.

To watch the full interview with Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, click here.


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Max Macaluso, Ph.D. and Margaret I. Cuomo have no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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