Your Excess Weight May Cause Cancer

Add one more health worry to the list of conditions we bring upon ourselves

Staying at a healthy weight or shedding pounds and keeping them off isn’t easy, especially as we age. But the list of conditions we put ourselves at risk for as a result of being overweight continues to grow.

New research shows that excess weight can increase not only the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, high blood pressure, gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout, and breathing problems — now multiple myeloma has been added to the list of potential cancers caused by obesity.

“The diagnosis is usually by accident, often driven by tests performed for the diagnosis or management of other conditions,” one researcher said.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in the blood and bone marrow that often develops after age 60.

Weight plays a role in the disease because multiple myeloma is preceded by a blood disorder called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). Abnormal plasma cells produce far too many copies of an antibody protein.

“For patients diagnosed with MGUS, maintaining a healthy weight may be a way to prevent the progression to multiple myeloma, if further confirmed by clinical trials,” said study co-author Su-Hsin Chang, Ph.D., an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Public Health Sciences at Washington University, in a statement.

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This precancerous condition otherwise does not cause symptoms and often goes undiagnosed.

Data from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was analyzed, identifying 7,878 patients, predominately men, who were diagnosed with MGUS from October 1999 through December 2009.

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After almost six years of tracking the patients, overweight and obese MGUS patients had a 55 percent and 98 percent higher risk of progression to multiple myeloma, respectively, than normal-weight MGUS patients.

African-American men also were more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to experience a progression from MGUS to multiple myeloma.

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“The diagnosis is usually by accident, often driven by tests performed for the diagnosis or management of other conditions,” Chang said. “Although our study does not directly suggest screening for MGUS, regular checkups can help physicians monitor whether MGUS is progressing to other disorders, including multiple myeloma.”

Multiple myeloma is the third most-common type of blood cancer. An estimated 30,330 new cases of the cancer will be diagnosed in 2016, and 12,650 deaths will be attributed to the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

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