Fat feeding cancer

As the number of obese children continues to rise, there's concern that the number of childhood cancer cases will as well.

Researchers are hoping that finding the link between the two could be the answer to finding new treatments.

16-year-old Saloman Chavez was a typical teen, enjoying dominos with dad and reading, a typical teen until.

"I started with bruises,” says Saloman Chavez who has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. “This whole arm was covered in bruises, from right here, to like all the way right here."

Saloman became one of nearly 13,000 American children diagnosed with cancer each year, a number that's expected to rise as the incidence in childhood obesity does the same.

"Obesity seems to increase the risk of developing cancer, but also from dying cancer," says Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD; Pediatric Endocrinologist at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

In fact, obese patients have more than a 50-percent increased risk of dying from cancer compared to lean patients. Doctor Steve Mittelman studies obesity in children with leukemia.

"We found that obesity actually accelerates leukemia cells growth and progression and it makes it harder to treat the leukemia cells," says Dr. Mittelman.

His team found fat cells attract and protect cancer cells. It's a discovery that could lead to new treatments.

"If we can find out how exactly these fat cells protect leukemia cells, then we can work on developing strategies to block this; perhaps medications," says Dr. Mittelman.

Dr. Mittelman believes that changing an overweight child's diet at diagnosis may help their prognosis. Today, Saloman is eating healthier, still trying to beat his dad at dominos, and looking forward to a day he's beaten cancer as well.

Parents can help keep kids weight in check by keeping them away from sugary drinks and food, encouraging them to stay active and modeling good healthy habits.

Fat feeding cancer
REPORT #2011

OBESITY: Obesity is a constantly growing health problem among both adults and children. Obesity means a person has too much body fat, while being overweight means a person's total weight (from bones, muscles, and fat) is more than what is considered healthy. According to a survey from the National Institute of Health, more than two out every three adult Americans are overweight or obese, one out of three are considered obese, and one out of every twenty are considered extremely obese. In children between the ages of six and nineteen, one in six are considered to be obese. (Source: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/)

CAUSES OF OBESITY: Essentially obesity occurs over time as you continually consume more calories than you use. However, just like most health issues, there are a variety of biological, environmental, and behavioral factors believed to make someone more likely to be obese. One study has shown having friends who are obese increases your chance of being obese. There is also continuing research to find an "obesity gene," which would give a person a predisposition to the disease. Recent developments have also attempted to define obesity as a "food addiction," therefore treating it similar to drug or alcohol addiction. (Source: http://scientopia.org/blogs/scicurious/2012/03/21/overeating-and-obesity-should-we-really-call-it-food-addiction/, https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/sitnflash_wp/2013/01/ issue134b/)

RISK FACTORS FOR OBESITY: Being obese can increase a person's risk of a variety of diseases, including:
* Diabetes
* Heart Disease
* Stroke
* Arthritis
* Some Cancers

If you are obese, even losing 5 or 10 percent of your weight can decrease your chances of contracting these diseases. Doctors recommend adults get 150 minutes a week of moderate cardiovascular activity, or 75 minutes of high intensity cardiovascular activity. A good rule of thumb for children is 60 minutes of activity a day. Following these guidelines can help a person reduce their weight, and in turn their risk for potentially serious diseases. Doctors also say some activity is still better than no activity at all. (Source: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/)

For More Information, Contact:

Ellin Kavanagh
Associate Director of Research Communication
The Saban Research Institute of
Children's Hospital Los Angeles

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