Losing Weight Doesn’t Prevent Cancer?

From an article on myths and facts in cancer prevention in The New York Times comes this interesting sidebar.   Specifically, among things that have not been shown to prevent cancer are:

  • Exercise
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Losing weight
  • Low-fat diet

So why are these so often recommended?

“I think it’s wishful thinking,” said Dr. Susan Love, a breast surgeon and president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. “We would like things to be more in our control. I think that’s part of it. And in the absence of anything else, what do we tell women about how to prevent breast cancer? We tell them to exercise and eat a good diet.”

Specifically regarding fatness, the main article notes that:

  • Weight loss in adulthood has not been shown to reduce cases of cancer;
  • The associations between being fat and getting cancer are correlations not causations, and often weak ones at that;
  • “Studies that come up with such associations are likely to be published, even though often the associations turn out to be spurious.”*

* Can I just say I love that quote? It’s such a staid, scientific way of saying “linking fat people to bad things is popular, even though it often turns out to be garbage.”



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8 responses to “Losing Weight Doesn’t Prevent Cancer?”

  1. Regina T Avatar
    Regina T

    I love that quote too!

    What I also love is the actual lack of smugness for the reality that doctors DONT have all the answers and that medicine is not an exact science. Far too many of them don’t know the difference between causation and correlation.

    That article certainly took the air out of the balloons of many a study that purported OBESITY IS THE EVIL CAUSE OF EEEEEEEEVERYYYYYYYTHIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!Eleventythirty!! What also disturbed me was the existence of relatively cheap drugs that HAVE actually been shown to PREVENT certain types of cancer…and the lackluster response of big pharma, doctors, and patients (who everyone says are knocking down the doors to get the latest and greatest pill). How hard is it to take a pill? I understand side effects, and I, myself dislike taking pills….but if I had a higher risk of developing a cancer due to genetics and such, I would certainly muster up the energy to swallow a freakin pill! I will be passing this info along to my father in law, who just underwent prostate cancer surgery, so that he can ask his doctor about this medication.

    btw….Welcome back :)

    Wonder if this will show up on mainstream news outlets? Not holding my breath!

  2. wriggles Avatar

    That quote sums up what a lot of us have been saying and been accused of being anti-doctor for our pains.

    If there’s one thing those in authority cannot stand is feeling they have no answers, they deeply resent coming face to face with something they have no answer for.

    It also undermines their authority, that is a lot of their rage against fat people (and others).

    We know this, so why can’t we discuss it openly like grown ups, instead of sublimating it in phoney (obesity etc) wars.

  3. Patsy Nevins Avatar
    Patsy Nevins

    I think that it is great to see admissions such as this, which admit that fat is not the cause of everything & that we CANNOT guarantee perfect health, longer life, etc., by living a ‘healthy lifestyle’, being the ‘perfect weight’, etc. There is such a push in our culture to make us believe that our health is within our control, that if we ever get sick, we are being ‘bad’ & not taking care of ourselves, & it simply is not true. And I am totally fed up with all the nannying out there, the widespread belief that individuals do not know how to live in/care for their own bodies & that it is somehow not only the RIGHT, but the DUTY of some to preach right living to others & also berate & (as with the insurance industry & many in the medical profession) punish anyone for non-compliance & blame any & all ills on that non-compliance. As I have been saying in real life & online around the fat community for years, our bodies are OUR property & our lives are our own & how we live is no one’s business but our own &, also that the real, often unpublished & well-hidden, science shows that there is no way of living/eating/exercising, etc., which guarantees longer life & better health. It is mostly genes, aging, & dumb luck &, much as they hate it to admit it, they do not really KNOW why some people live beyond 100 & others drop dead of a heart attack, sometimes while working out, when they are 40.

    I have always loved the human interest stories they do on people who are 100 or older. They are always asking them stories about their lifestyles or eating habits, & it amuses me (though, given my own family history of long-lived relatives who mostly did all of what are now called ‘the wrong things, doesn’t really surprise me) to see how many of them say that they haven’t been into regular exercise, that they never could see the point of doing a lot of jumping around that didn’t get them anywhere or get any work done, & especially how many of them list such foods as Big Macs, KFC, & Twinkies as their favorites, &/or say that they always had bacon & eggs or pancakes & sausages for breakfast. You know, we are all going to die sometime & most of us will get sick somewhere along the way, so we may as well live the way which gives us pleasure & fulfillment while we can, & that way will be different for everyone, but, aside from such things as smoking, heavy drinking &/or drug use, & not wearing a seatbelt, your own choices are unlikely to have a big impact on how healthy you are or how long you live.

    What always amazes me even more is how many people are not liberated or relieved by such information, but terrified at having responsibility for their long-term health & longevity snatched from their hands. I guess people hate feeling powerless.

  4. Karen Avatar

    Interesting article, thanks!

  5. noceleryplease Avatar

    It would appear that the medical community would like wishful thinking to cure cancer.

    That would be a very good thing, indeed!

  6. Trabb's Boy Avatar
    Trabb’s Boy

    That is a wonderful thing to see in the NYT.

    Patsy, Word. And when are you going to start your own blog. The world needs it!

  7. lifeonfats Avatar

    When I heard the initial reports of being deathfat causes cancer, I took it with a grain of salt, as cancer can happen in anyone regardless of weight.

    My mother unfortunately had a cancerous mass removed from her breast and while cancer free right now, must remain on drugs or there’s a 100% chance she will get another lump. This all happened after her 60 lb. weight loss, so I know that losing weight and changing diet doesn’t decrease the risk. I’m glad to hear someone actually coming out and admitting that weight loss isn’t a fix.

  8. Patsy Nevins Avatar
    Patsy Nevins

    Thanks for the compliment, Trabb’s Boy, I appreciate it. I may have a blog when my computer skills are better than those of the average chimpanzee. :-)

    Very sorry about your mother, life on fats. I lost my sister, who was more like a mother to me, over 6 years ago. She had lung cancer, not too surprising since she had smoked three packs per day for over 50 years. Her oncologist told her something few people ever hear from a doctor, that her fat had kept her alive for probably several years longer than she might have lived with cancer had she been thin.

    And I know that science has well-established that losing weight after the age of 60 increasing your mortality risks by several hundred percent, but of course I have no idea whether it specifically causes or at least contributes to cancer. Much of cancer is caused by a combination of aging & genes; you can’t change your genes &, whatever you weigh, as long as you are still breathing, you will get older.

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