Rare Cancer Increases 350%… How to Prevent It

Some complications of obesity are well-known. Increased risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes top the list, but according to the National Cancer Institute, obesity also increases the risk for cancers of the colon, breast (in postmenopausal women), endometrium, kidney and esophagus and is associated with increased risk for cancer of the gallbladder, ovaries and pancreas.

How significant is the link? The National Cancer Institute reports that overweight and obese individuals are twice as likely to develop a specific type of esophageal cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma than people of a healthy weight. The incidence of adenocarcinoma has increased 350% over the past three decades, while obesity levels have also climbed.

Researchers have attempted to connect the dots between obesity and this somewhat rare (about 7,000 new cases a year) cancer. The trail starts with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is strongly associated with adenocarcinoma, I was told by Leo Galland, MD, author of The Fat Resistance Diet. He explained that compared with people with acid reflux who are not overweight, overweight people with acid reflux are more likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus. This is a condition in which the cells lining the lower part of the esophagus change into or are replaced by pre-cancerous cells. Barrett’s esophagus is caused by exposure of the esophageal lining to stomach acid and bile. A small percentage of those with Barrett’s (“perhaps only 1%”) go on to develop full-blown cancer, said Dr. Galland.


What’s the connection between obesity and esophageal cancer? Researchers don’t yet know for sure, though they do have some theories. As with so many conditions, it seems a probable culprit is inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to infection or injury. Inflammation revs up the immune system and, when chronic, can have serious, degenerative effects throughout the body. “Inflammation promotes cancer,” Dr. Galland pointed out, and people with abdominal obesity have metabolic disturbances, including inflammation. Dr. Galland believes that this excessive inflammation increases the risk for esophageal cancer.

The most obvious measure to reduce your risk for esophageal cancer, as well as for other conditions associated with obesity, is to lose weight. According to Dr. Galland, people who follow his “Fat Resistance Diet” program often experience relief of reflux symptoms immediately, even before they’ve lost much weight. “It’s the change in the eating pattern that does it,” he explains, noting that this is because of the emphasis on foods with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds, along with brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including berries and apples, which are loaded with anti-inflammatory plant compounds like ellagitannins, anthocyanins and the flavonoid quercetin.

Additionally, Dr. Galland recommends calcium (250 to 500 mg) immediately after meals, to help tame the acid reflux from the stomach that can potentially lead to increased risk. “Calcium helps the esophagus resist the reflux of stomach contents and can tighten the valve between the stomach and the esophagus,” he explained. To achieve this toning effect quickly, in order to prevent post-meal discomfort, he suggests buying calcium citrate in capsule form. Open up the capsule, dissolve the calcium in water and drink it down.

Get a free one-day meal plan with recipes by visiting Dr. Galland’s Web site at www.fatresistancediet.com/trial.