Obesity linked to increased risk of leukemia

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2012-10-30 18:27

Obesity is of epidemic proportions throughout the US. In addition to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, researchers are continuing to discover more ways that obesity can damage the body. These include altering an individual’s ability to smell, disrupting sleep and sexual function, and accelerating cancerous tumor growth. Obesity in children is also linked to serious health problems.

Fat cells produce numerous hormones, inflammatory molecules and other chemicals that can act directly on nearby organs or travel to cause damage in other areas of the body. Better understanding how this works might eventually open new avenues for treatment of obesity and linked conditions. The soaring obesity rate among children is particularly disturbing. To gain further insight into this problem, I interviewed Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD in regard to his research on the connection between leukemia (a type of blood cancer) and obesity in children. He is a pediatric endocrinologist affiliated with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. His research, funded by a grant from the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, has discovered that fat cells protect leukemia cells from a variety of chemotherapies, along with the fact that obesity accelerates the progression of leukemia. Obese children, when diagnosed with the most common type of childhood leukemia have about a 50% higher chance of their disease relapsing after treatment than patients who were lean.

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