Obesity Responsible for 40 Percent of Diagnosed Cancers

By Dr. Mercola

Nearly 30 percent of the global population is overweight or obese and this has a significant impact on cancer rates, experts say. In a 2014 report, obesity was linked to an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.1,2 More recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the reality is far grimmer than that — at least in the U.S.

Obesity-Related Cancers on the Rise in the US

While cancers unrelated to obesity declined by 13 percent between 2005 and 2014, obesity-related cancer incidence rose by 7 percent, and in 2014 more than 630,000 people were diagnosed with obesity-related cancer in the U.S. alone.3,4,5 Overall, obesity-related cancers accounted for a whopping 40 percent of all diagnosed cancers in 2014. As reported by Reuters: 6

“According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, 13 cancers are associated with overweight and obesity. They include meningioma, multiple myeloma, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and cancers of the thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon and rectum (colorectal).” 

Previous data from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) suggests excess body weight is responsible for about 25 percent of the relative contribution to cancer incidence, ranking second only to smoking.7 When combined with other high-risk behaviors, such as a poor diet and lack of exercise, the relative contribution rises to 33 percent, making optional lifestyle-related factors a significant contributor to many cancers.

Obesity-Related Cancers Disproportionally Affect Women

Women are at greatest risk. Compared to men, women are more than twice as likely to develop obesity-related cancer,8 and the longer a woman is overweight, the greater her risk.9 The latest CDC data shows that 55 percent of all cancers in women were related to obesity whereas obesity accounted for “just” 24 percent of male cancer cases.10 Overall, endometrial, ovarian and postmenopausal breast cancer accounted for 42 percent of all obesity-related cancers.

According to the authors, “Observational studies have provided evidence that even a 5-kg (11-pound) increase in weight since early adulthood is associated with increased risk of overweight- and obesity-related cancers.” Despite such evidence, few people are fully aware of this association.

As noted by CDC deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat,11 “That obesity and overweight are affecting cancers may be surprising to many Americans. The awareness of some cancers being associated with obesity and overweight is not yet widespread.” Considering the fact that nearly 71 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese, and over 20 percent of adolescents are already in the obese category,12 awareness of this link needs to grow if we’re to successfully combat rising cancer rates in coming decades.

‘Fat and Fit’ Myth Promotes Unhealthy Ideals

Many still hold fast to the idea that you can be overweight and metabolically healthy, or “fat and fit,” but the cases in which this might be true are few and far in between. While this notion helps combat weight-related depression and poor self-esteem, it ignores the very real health risks associated with excess body weight.

As noted in a 2013 review and meta-analysis13 that included data from more than 61,000 people, obese individuals were more likely to die sooner or have heart-related problems than people of normal weight — even if they were otherwise healthy — causing the researchers to conclude that:

“Compared with metabolically healthy normal-weight individuals, obese persons are at increased risk for adverse long-term outcomes even in the absence of metabolic abnormalities, suggesting that there is no healthy pattern of increased weight.”

More recent research confirms that visceral fat — the fat buildup around your internal organs, which typically shows as an increased waist size — is directly associated with insulin resistance, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer. In the U.S., Greece, Iceland and New Zealand, over 90 percent of adult men and half of all children were found to have this risk factor.14

Belly Fat Especially Risky for Postmenopausal Women

As noted by Medical News Today,15 “So-called metabolically obese normal weight individuals may still have impaired health, and up to 50 percent of these individuals may be ignored by current BMI [body mass index] measurements.” Other recent research has linked excess belly fat alone (regardless of bodyweight) to an increased risk for lung and gastrointestinal cancers in postmenopausal women. According to study author Line Maersk Staunstrup, a doctoral student at Nordic Bioscience ProScion in Denmark:16

“The average elderly women can very much use this information, as it is known that the menopause transition initiates a shift in body fat towards the central trunk area. Therefore, elderly women should be especially aware of their lifestyle when they approach the pre-menopause age.”

How to Measure Your Body Composition

Indeed, BMI has been repeatedly shown to be an unreliable way to measure a person’s body composition as it fails to take into account muscle mass and intra-abdominal (visceral) fat mass.

A far more accurate measurement is to measure your waistline (the distance around the smallest area below the rib cage, above your belly button) in relation to your height. Waist circumference is the easiest anthropometric measure of total body fat. A general guide for healthy waist circumference is as follows:

Waist Measure for Men
Waist Measurement for Women

Alternatively, you can measure your waist-to-hip ratio. This is done by measuring the circumference of your hips at the widest part, across your buttocks. Then measure your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just above your belly button. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio, or use the University of Maryland’s online waist-to-hip ratio calculator.17

Normal Waist to Hip Ratio

The High Cost of Obesity

Other research also deconstructs the “fat and fit” notion, showing obesity eventually takes a toll on health — and finances — even if the person is currently healthy. Using computer modeling, the researchers estimated the financial cost of obesity for different age groups. As an example, a 50-year-old obese individual with normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels has a price tag in excess of $36,000 in direct medical care and lost productivity.

Not surprisingly, weight loss was associated with significant savings. Not only could health insurance premiums be lowered across the board if society as a whole did not struggle with an excess of obesity-related health problems, but individuals would also save on co-pays, and they’d be able to maintain their productivity in the workforce. As reported by Medicine Net:18

“The researchers estimated that if an obese 20-year-old shed enough pounds to drop to the overweight category, almost two-thirds of his lifetime costs to society could be avoided … If a healthy but obese 70-year-old crossed to the overweight category, her lifetime costs could be cut by about 40 percent …”

How Excess Weight Contributes to Cancer

Obesity can raise your risk of cancer in several ways. Some cancers, especially breast and endometrial cancer, are sensitive to the female sex hormone estrogen, and fat cells produce an excess of this hormone. This is also why obesity in young children is such a grave concern. By carrying excess weight (and excess estrogen) for many years, if not decades, they’re at a significantly heightened risk of cancer as adults.  

Obesity is also associated with elevated inflammation levels in your body, which can contribute to cancer growth. One of the basic reasons why nutritional ketosis works so well against cancer is because it very effectively and efficiently lowers inflammation. A high-sugar diet, which tends to pack on the pounds, also feeds cancer by providing cancer cells with their preferred fuel.

A healthy high-fat diet, on the other hand, tends to discourage cancer growth, as cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to use ketones derived from fat as fuel.

It is likely that obesity represents an indirect marker for the true cause of the problem that contributes to both obesity and cancer, namely insulin resistance, which is also associated with leptin resistance and activation of the mTOR pathway. By lowering your blood sugar levels and normalizing your insulin receptor sensitivity, exercise has a similar effect, as this too creates an environment less conducive to cancer growth.

Cutting Carbs Is More Effective Than Cutting Calories

Calorie counting used to be the go-to solution for weight loss. However, research shows it’s not the cutting of calories that has the most profound effect, it’s cutting down on net carbs. One of the reasons for this is because, compared to fat and protein, carbohydrates have the greatest effect on insulin, which drives fat storage. Carbohydrate restriction also activates AMPK, an enzyme and powerful signaling protein that monitors cellular energy levels and drives several important metabolic pathways.

This includes pathways involved in fat burning, the building of mitochondria, insulin regulation and glycogen breakdown — all of which have important implications not only for fat loss but also for general health. Importantly, recent research19 (summarized in the video above) shows a high-carb diet — even if you reduce calories to a level designed for weight loss — will prevent AMPK activation.

What’s more, eating a low-carb diet will activate AMPK even if your calorie count is excessive! This can help explain why it’s so difficult to lose weight on a low-calorie diet when a large portion of those calories come from carbohydrates. That said, calorie restriction does have its merits, especially when you start talking about calorie restriction in terms of cyclical fasting. From my perspective, the timing and frequency of your meals is really the key to unlocking healthy metabolism.

Nutritional Ketosis — The Key to Cancer Prevention and Treatment

I’ve written a number of articles detailing the anticancer potential of nutritional ketosis. For a more in-depth review, revisit my interview with Thomas Seyfried, one of the leading pioneers in the nutritional treatment of cancer. He’s been teaching neurogenetics and neurochemistry as it relates to cancer treatment at Yale University and Boston College for more than 25 years.

He wrote an excellent medical textbook for alternative oncologists on this topic called “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer,” and is currently involved in preclinical research at Boston College. His book costs over $100 but you can get a free summary20 of it here. Earlier this year, I announced my pledge to raise $1 million to support Seyfried’s work by matching donations.

Another front-runner in this field is Dr. Abdul Slocum with the ChemoThermia Oncology Center in Turkey, where they’re reporting remarkable successes using metabolically supported cancer therapies in a broad range of advanced stage cancers, including those involving the pancreas, lung, breasts, ovaries and stomach. Many of Slocum’s patients have failed traditional therapies and some have even been sent home to die.

When they enter his clinic, they’re immediately placed on a ketogenic diet and remain on it throughout their treatment. By incorporating nutritional ketosis, they’re able to minimize the amount of chemotherapy required without sacrificing effectiveness. On the contrary, effectiveness is massively increased, as their bodies are put into a metabolic state that is inhospitable to cancer cells, making them more vulnerable and easier to eradicate.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet for Optimal Health and Disease Prevention

Research reveals a vast majority of Americans eat all day long. Most also consume a majority of their daily calories late in the evening and this type of eating pattern is a recipe for weight gain and metabolic dysfunction. The reason so many struggle with their weight (aside from eating processed foods that have been grossly altered from their natural state) is because they rarely, if ever, skip a meal.

As discussed above, carrying excess weight is a significant risk factor for 13 different types of cancer. The good news is that by eating the right foods and reducing the frequency of your eating, you not only will shed weight as a natural side effect of normalizing your metabolism, you’ll also reduce your risk of chronic disease, including cancer, to a significant degree.

If you already have cancer, the combination of a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting can significantly improve your chances of recovery. This is the kind of eating plan I detail in my latest book, “Fat for Fuel.” From my perspective, it’s nothing short of medical negligence to fail to integrate this type of dietary strategy into a patient’s cancer treatment plan (along with optimizing vitamin D).

A ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting can be easily integrated into whatever cancer treatment plan you decide to follow. Personally, I believe it’s absolutely crucial, no matter what type of cancer you’re trying to address. To learn more, please see “Burning Fat for Fuel Increases Quality and Quantity of Life.”

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Medical Mistakes Affect 1 in 5 People

By Dr. Mercola

Medical mistakes are made in the operating room, in the emergency room and in the doctor’s office. And, unfortunately, the mistakes made by doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical companies still are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Statistics from a study originally published in 20001 have not changed in the 17 years since its publication.

Authors in the Canadian Journal of Surgery believe medical errors represent a serious public health problem and a threat to patient safety.2 The definition of a medical error often rests on patient outcome, or rather if there was a negative outcome from a medication or procedure.

Some research suggests 250,000 people die each year from medical errors and millions more who are harmed by drug-related mistakes.3 However, as frightening as the number of people dying from medical error is, some suggest it is only the tip of the iceberg.4

The purpose of understanding the numbers is not to scare you, but rather to help you understand how you can take control of your health even inside the health care system. Making informed choices and using proven tools to reduce your risk of illness by maintaining optimal health are strategies you may use to reduce your personal risk of injury at the hand of another.

Some medical errors have resulted in drastic changes in the standards of medical care, but often only after tragedies and long years of work to change an ingrained system. For instance, in 1982, ABC highlighted cases of anesthesia mistakes that resulted in injury or death, but it wasn’t until 1985 before a program of standardized anesthesia care and monitoring was put into place to avert those errors.5

As a general rule, one of your best ways of preventing unnecessary injury or death is to stay healthy and out of the hospital. This is why I am so passionate about sharing preventive health strategies with you, such as eating right, exercising, reducing stress and getting quality sleep. The exception is in cases of accidental trauma or surgical emergencies when modern medicine can be truly lifesaving.

Survey Reveals 1 in 5 Patients Has Experienced a Medical Error

In a nationwide survey of more than 2,500 people, researchers found that 1 in every 5 adults had been on the receiving end of a medical error and 1 in every 3 said someone whose care they were closely involved in had experienced a medical error.6 The results from this survey found most of the errors were involved with diagnosis of a medical condition and occurred in an outpatient setting. The press release begins:7

“The vast majority of Americans are having positive experiences with the health care system, but 21 percent of adults report having personally experienced a medical error, according to a new national survey released today by the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago.”

Other notable findings from this survey included:

  • Almost half of the participants who discovered an error brought it to the attention of medical personnel or other staff
  • Most believed that although the medical staff are predominantly responsible for safety, patients and families also have a role to play
  • People identified on average seven different factors that played into the medical error

While the survey does demonstrate a willingness to be involved in patient safety, it is also important to note the average rate of error was 21 percent in this sample size, and medical mistakes continue to rank as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Dr. Tejal K. Gandhi, chief clinical and safety officer and president of the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute, commented on the results of the study:

“The survey results show that Americans recognize that patient safety is a critically important, but complex, issue. The focus on diagnostic errors and the outpatient settings closely parallels other research in this area and confirms that health care improvers need to take a systems approach to safety that encompasses all settings of care, not just hospitals.

I think one of the most valuable findings is the degree to which patients are willing, and expect, to be involved in their care. The fact that many people who experienced an error spoke up about it confirms that patients and families are vital to informing health care organizations about harm and how to prevent it in the future.”

What’s Acceptable Human Error?

Any time humans are involved in an equation, there is room for error. No human is error free. And, like most other human behaviors, the average rate of human error has also been picked apart, studied, analyzed and discussed. Human error rate tables confirm that the “human factor” is real and unavoidable. Human performance falters when tasks require great care, or are complicated and nonroutine, in much the same way medical care functions.

However, in most human error rate tables, the highest percentage of error is 10 percent performing complicated, nonroutine tasks.8 Mechanical error rates outside of medical care average 0.5 percent to 1 percent.9 Researchers measured pharmacist error in a busy VA hospital where 1.9 million medications were dispensed over one year and found a 0.0048 percent error rate during the busiest shifts when verification of over 400 medications was done in one eight-hour shift.10

IHS Automotive, an auto industry research firm, reports there are nearly 253 million cars on U.S. roads.11 There are an estimated 5.8 million car accidents each year.12 Of those car accidents, 94 percent are caused by human error.13 If each car drove just once each day, accidents occurring as the result of human error in the 253 million cars is equal to 2.1 percent. Each of these statistics is a far cry from the 21 percent of patients in the U.S. health care system that experience medical errors.

You May Be Shocked by These Medical Mistakes

In many instances, medical error is preventable as it’s often the result of human error. Patients and family members may help reduce these mistakes by staying vigilant when receiving medical care.14

Getting the wrong treatment

To give you medication, radiation, physical therapy or even surgery, medical staff are required to verify your identity. Most hospitals use identification bands with your name, birthdate and a unique barcode. Make sure this is checked before you receive any medication or treatment.

Waiting in the emergency room

Hospitals and emergency rooms have a finite amount of space, so when they are full, you may be forced to wait for medical care. Most hospitals will prioritize patient care based on the extent of the trauma or urgency of the medical situation. Be sure the staff is aware of any changes to your medical condition while you’re waiting.

Waking up during surgery

If you receive an underdose of anesthesia, your brain may be “awake” even if you can’t move your muscles. Unable to move or speak, you may still feel the surgery taking place. Express any concerns you have with your surgeon and anesthesiologist before surgery, including asking about options for local anesthesia in lieu of being put to sleep.

Surgical mistakes

Surgeons may perform a procedure on the wrong body part, or leave a “souvenir” inside. Between 2005 and 2012, nearly 800 instruments were left inside patients after surgery, drastically increasing their risk for infection and necessitating a second surgery.15

This number doesn’t include other potential objects, such as sponges or electrodes. Alert your surgeon and attendants you are aware of these issues, confirming with the surgeon the body part on which surgery is planned and asking them to be especially careful when counting instruments and sponges at the end of the surgery.

Fake doctors

Not all medical mistakes are made by medical professionals. In some cases, con artists pretend to be doctors or therapists to scam you of your hard-earned money. They sell potions, braces or exercise programs advertised to make you healthier, faster, better or prevent surgery without the research or expertise to back up those claims.

CNN gave the example of Sarafina Gerling, who wore a back brace advertised online by a man found guilty of insurance fraud. Gerling thought the brace would help her scoliosis, but it only made the condition worse.

Iatrogenic Infections Result in Nearly 50,000 Deaths Each Year

Iatrogenic (caused by a medical treatment, diagnostic procedure or physician) and hospital-acquired infections kill more people each year than diabetes. Each year 1.7 million are infected at the doctor’s office or hospital and 99,000 die from health care-associated (HAI) infections.16 These infections affect up to 10 percent of all patients hospitalized each year and add an estimated $20 billion in additional health care costs.

Also called nosocomial infections, the most commonly acquired in-hospital type of infection include infections in central line IV catheters, urinary tract infections from Foley catheters, surgical site infections and diarrheal illness from Clostridium difficile (C. diff). In many cases, these infections can be prevented using simple handwashing techniques required of hospital personnel when coming into contact with patients.

Unfortunately, many of these infections are triggered by superbugs or bacteria that have become antibiotic resistant. Inappropriate use of antibiotics and overuse have contributed to the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, but the largest source of exposure is actually through antibiotic use in your food. Nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to livestock to reduce disease and make the animals grow bigger faster.

Residue from antibiotics is then passed along to you in the meat and dairy products you eat. For example, at least 80 different antibiotics are currently allowed and may be detected in cow’s milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)17 has concluded that as much as 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is linked to food.

Death Certificates Hide the Real Numbers

At this point, no one knows the real number of deaths that may be attributed to medical mistakes as most death certificates do not list the trigger. For example, Dr. Barbara Starfield, author of the Journal of the American Medical Association study that documented a staggering 225,000 deaths from medical mistakes in 2000, was herself a victim. Her husband, Dr. Neil Holtzman, attributed her death to an interaction between aspirin and Plavix, which was not mentioned on her death certificate.18

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine believe these shortcomings in how vital statistics are recorded hinder research and keep the issue out of the public eye. They wrote an open letter to the CDC, calling for medical errors to become a recognizable and reportable cause of death.19 The data analysis showed the coding system used to categorize death certificate data doesn’t capture information that may have led to unrecognized surgical complications, inappropriate medications, diagnostic errors or poor judgment.

The inability to capture the full picture of medical errors may stunt research and public knowledge of a problem that continues to grow inside the health care system. The researchers have recommended a number of different strategies that increase transparency following an error and communication within the health care system and with reporting agencies, such as the CDC.

These types of changes may help researchers evaluate the issues and find solutions to reduce patient injury and death. As long as providers and administrators don’t acknowledge the severity of the problem, very few corrections are likely to be made. Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the research and commented on the irony in the results, saying,20 “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”

Staying Safe in the Hospital

In this interview with Dr. Andrew Saul, who has written a book on the issue of safeguarding your health while hospitalized, we discuss the importance of being your own advocate. Once you have walked through your doctor’s office door or have been checked into a hospital, you are immediately at risk for becoming the recipient of medical mistakes. You and your family are the best safeguards against experiencing a medical error. This is particularly important for children and senior citizens.

Anytime you are hospitalized, be sure you have a personal advocate present with you to ask questions and take notes. It helps reduce the likelihood of mistakes when someone can ask, “What is this medication? What is it for? Who is supposed to get it? What’s the dose? Are there side effects?” Another step you may consider if someone you know is scheduled for surgery is to print out the World Health Organization surgical safety checklist.21

The checklist can be downloaded free of charge here. If a loved one is in the hospital, print it out and bring it with you, as this can help you protect your family member or friend from preventable errors in care. Needless to say, avoiding hospitalization is your safest bet. You may be able to reduce your risk of hospitalization by maintaining optimal health following specific strategies you’ll find in my previous article, “Medical Errors: STILL the Third Leading Cause of Death.”

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In A Single Week, Plague Cases More Than Doubled In Madagascar

A far more infectious airborne strain is hitting cities hard.