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Is there a Correlation Between Obesity and Bladder Cancer?

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Is there a Correlation Between Obesity and Bladder Cancer?

— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Obesity and smoking are controllable risks that contribute to bladder cancer and thus are worth discussing with patient as areas for lifestyle change.

 Bladder cancer is the ninth most common type of cancer in the world with higher rates in males and increased risk to adults after the age of 50 years. Obesity and smoking are controllable risks that contribute to bladder cancer and thus are worth discussing with patient as areas for lifestyle change.

The Relationship between Weight and Bladder Health

There is evidence to suggest that increasing Body Mass Index (BMI) is a risk factor for bladder cancer, regardless of other health issues. One possibility for this relationship is elevated insulin production that results from obesity, which leads to an imbalance in proliferation of cells, apoptosis and angiogenesis and could lead to bladder cancer.1 Although BMI is associated with a higher risk of bladder cancer and recurrence, there is little evidence that it is tied to progression of the disease. However, when increased BMI is combined with smoking (which is already the most important risk for bladder cancer), the association becomes more significant.

Physical inactivity also is significantly associated with bladder cancer and because many people with obesity are inactive, their risks increase because both physical inactivity and obesity independently affect carcinogenesis. Although the causes of bladder cancer are not fully understood and need greater study, the association with obesity is supported by extant research and warrants greater patient awareness.

Very Low Calorie Diets can Benefit Cancer Patients

A Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), such as the medically-supervised New Direction System, can be an effective alternative for weight loss for people with cancer. Studies have found improvements to metabolic profiles and insulin resistance, which are associated with various types of cancer. Studies have found that patients with certain type of cancer who followed VLCD have experienced enhanced effects of PI3K inhibitors, reduced tumor size and increased responsiveness to adjunct radiation therapy.2,3

This takes on particular importance for patients with bladder cancer, specifically those who are overweight or obese and do not adhere to guidelines for behavior changes that affect their health-related quality of life. Many patients are too sedentary and do not meet the minimum intake requirements for fruits, vegetable and grains. Given that poor diet and inactivity are associated with worsened overall health and recurrence of cancer, patients must be made aware of these links as an incentive to consider lifestyle changes. Further, improvements often are additive so that a better diet and physical activity result in marked improvement to quality of life.

Although the relationship between obesity and bladder cancer is not fully understood, the path to minimizing impact and improving medical outcomes is. Weight loss leads to a range of health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer. Because patients may be resistant or struggle with the process, the benefits and positive outcomes from weight loss specific to each patient’s situation should be highlighted during each visit, with information on various effective options made easily available. This is truly a situation where prevention is the best (and most cost effective!) medicine.



1 Estimating the Impact of Body Mass Index on Bladder Cancer Risk: Stratification by Smoking Status

2 Engineered Diets to Improve Cancer Outcomes

3 When Less May be More: Calorie Restriction and Response to Cancer Therapy


About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.

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