The Link Between Diet, Obesity and Cancer

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A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and good sources of protein are important for good health, but did you know that what you eat can also affect your risk for cancer?

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The good news is that diet and obesity are things that can be controlled through healthful choices and a greater understanding of how our bodies process certain foods.

The link between cancer and diet is the topic of the UMC Cancer Center’s next Breast Health Lunch Lecture, presented by Adam Riker, MD., F.A.C.S. Dr. Riker is an LSU Health New Orleans surgical oncologist and Oncology Service Line Director at UMC.

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The free lecture takes place from 12 – 1 p.m. in the UMC Conference Center, on the first floor of UMC, 2000 Canal Street. Lunch will be provided, and a Q&A will follow.

During the lecture Dr. Riker will share a wealth of information, including the basics of cancer, how many people develop cancer, and most importantly, why people develop cancer.

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According to the World Cancer Research Fund, one of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese. Eating food that is high in fat or sugar can lead to weight gain, and there is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 cancers.

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Dr. Riker’s lecture will explore why having too much sugar in our diets is not only dangerous, but potentially deadly, the effects of wheat, flour, gluten and process foods (most of which contain flour and wheat) on our overall health, the effects of dairy consumption and the most common pesticide/herbicide in the U.S. food chain and its impact on the vast majority of food consumed in the U.S.

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In the second half of his lecture, Dr. Riker will drill down on how our body processes food, especially sugar and wheat. Sugar is linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Gluten, a protein in wheat, has been linked to a number of ailments, including inflammation, intestinal disorders and autoimmune disorders.

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He will discuss the dietary guidelines in the food pyramid and affect on childhood and adult obesity.

The Standard American Diet

1970: 2,077 calories

1990: 2,343 calories

2010: 2,590 calories

Additionally, “I’ll focus upon the striking increase in obesity and diabetes (and other health problems) as a result of the U.S diet and then discuss what we can do about it, in order to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled and cancer-free lifestyle,” Dr. Riker said.

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Colon Cancer: When & Why You Should Start Screening

Author: Guy Orangio, MD,  FACS, FASCRS, UMC Colorectal Cancer Surgeon

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Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly occurring cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with over 56,000 people expected to die from this disease each year. However, this cancer is preventable and curable when detected and treated early.

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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time to learn more about  this disease and when and why to get screened. Because there are often no symptoms when it is first developing, colorectal cancer can only be caught early through regular screening.

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Most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If we are able to find these polyps while they are still non-cancerous, we remove them and the cancer may be prevented. Major surgery can usually be avoided.

STAGES

Screening programs begin by classification of risk based on personal, family and medical history. People who are at increased risk may need earlier and more frequent screening depending upon the recommendation of their healthcare provider.

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS), which is dedicated to advancing the treatment of patients with diseases affecting the colon, rectum and anus, supports the following colorectal cancer screening guidelines:

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Recommendations Screening People at Average Risk

  • Men and women at average risk should have screening for colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps beginning at age 50 years.
  • A colonoscopy (a test that allows the physician to look directly at the lining of the entire colon and rectum) every 10 years or a barium enema (x-ray of the colon) every 5 to 10 years are acceptable alternatives. •

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Recommendations for Screening People at Increased Risk

  • People at increased risk of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps include those with first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with colon cancer or adenomatous polyps diagnosed before 60 years
  • People with two first-degree relatives who were diagnosed at any age, should have screening colonoscopy starting at age 40 years — or ten years younger than the earliest diagnosis in their family — and then repeat every five years.
  • People with a first-degree relative with colon cancer or adenomatous polyp diagnosed at age greater than 60 years or two second degree relatives with colorectal cancer should be advised to be screened as average risk persons beginning at age 40 years
  • People with one second-degree relative (grandparent, aunt or uncle) or a third-degree relative (great-grandparent or cousin) with colorectal cancer should be screened as average risk persons

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Prevention Tips

In addition to timely and regular screening for colorectal cancer, people may be able to lower their risk of getting the disease by:

  • Avoiding foods that are high in fat.
  • Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods.
  • Exercising regularly and maintaining a normal body weight.
  • Not smoking and drinking alcohol only in moderation.

 

For information on the Comprehensive Colorectal Cancer Program at UMC, click here.

 

About Dr. Orangio

Guy Orangio

Guy Orangio, MD, is a board-certified colorectal surgeon at UMC and an Association Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans.