Weight loss cuts inflammation, cancer markers

People who are overweight know that it puts them at risk of heart issues, and it also increases the chance of developing some cancers, perhaps because it increases levels of inflammation in the body. Biomarker science published in Cancer Research shows that even losing a little weight cuts the inflammation, and so could cut the cancer risk.

In a one-year study, 439 women who were post-menopausal and overweight or obese were divided up into four groups: a low-calorie diet, 225 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week, both diet and exercise, or neither (the control group). The researchers measured their levels of inflammatory biomarkers at the beginning and the end of the study.

After one year, women in the diet or diet and exercise group had falls in two inflammatory biomarkers, C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, and the falls in inflammatory biomarkers were greatest in those who lost 5% or more of their body weight, which could reduce their risk of cancer. Exercise alone, without diet, had little effect.

"This study adds to the growing understanding we have about the link between obesity and cancer, and it appears we can affect inflammation directly through non-pharmaceutical means," said Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

While keeping a BMI in the healthy range of 18-25 is the best target, this research shows that just losing 5% of body weight, which is practical and achievable, can have a positive effect on biomarkers and therefore on long-term health, particularly the chance of developing cancer. It's not easy--if it was there wouldn't be an enormous global diet industry--but seeing the results in the biomarkers could give reluctant dieters, especially those with other risk factors, a push in the right (downward) direction.

- read the press release
- see the abstract