The Obesity Connection One risk factor links those three types of GI can-

cer, says Dr. Posey: obesity. With pancreatic, liver and esophageal cancers, there is a role for obesity and some associated increased risk of those malignancies, he says. With esophageal cancers, for instance, we know that obesity is a risk factor, but then you ask why men are up to seven times more impacted by esopha- geal cancer than women. If it increases in men, it should increase in women. It does, but not to the same degree.

Dr. Posey suggests that different aspects of obesity could have an impact on developing these particular types of cancer. For example, men almost always gain excess weight above the waist, while women gain weight both above and below the waist. The distribution of body fat could also play a role, Dr. Posey says.

Intervening before a patient develops a malignancy could be just as important as hav- ing an effective novel therapy for the malignancy, he says. I would like to see us

engage in efforts to help us understand patterns of cancer, potentially, in patients we strongly suspect are at increased risk. Can we begin to make inroads into understanding someone s risk of developing certain diseases that we know are on the rise? Is it diet com- bined with some other modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical activity?

UAB s location in the heart of the Deep South and in Alabama, which ranks among the nation s most obese states positions the Cancer Center ideally to explore the connection between obesity and cancer. In the last few years, the center has been ramping up its research efforts in this area.

If we can begin to engage with efforts to improve health, whether it s through nutrition or physical activ-

ity or some other modality, we might begin to influence cancer incidence, Dr. Posey

adds. We might not be able to look back on that a year from now

and say, Yes, it made a difference, or No, it didn t, but examining those modifiable risk factors could be an important first step in prevention and early detection.

6 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

UAB s location

in the heart

of the Deep

South and in

Alabama, which

ranks among the

nation s most

obese states

positions the

Cancer Center

ideally to

explore the

connection

between obesity

and cancer.

THE UAB COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER currently is leading the Gastrointestinal Oncology Research and Patient Care Initiative, a $5.5-million fund-raising campaign designed to help UAB become the national leader in the research and treatment of GI cancers.

The initiative is an effort to bring together the resources needed to coordinate and enhance these programs and create a nationally prominent research and patient-care enterprise in GI oncology at UAB.

For more information, to get involved or to make a gift, please contact Chris Thomason, senior director of development for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, at (205) 934-0930 or cthomason@uab.edu.

The Gastrointestinal Oncology Research and Patient Care Initiative

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