If you knew that your excess weight was significantly raising your risk for cancer, would you take action? A new study reveals that men and women with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have a much higher chance of developing cancer. NAFLD currently affects 25% of the population in the United States. The main cause of NAFLD? Overweight and obesity. If you are not taking your weight seriously, you are negatively impacting your overall health. The extra weight puts your liver and digestive tract in danger. If you want to avoid unwanted disease and lower your risk of cancer, it’s time to take weight loss seriously.

Understanding NAFLD


When extra fat cells build up in the liver due to reasons other than alcohol use, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is diagnosed. The excess fat cells develop as a result of obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and diabetes. A healthy liver does have some fat, but a fatty liver is in a state of steatosis when 5-10% of the liver is fat. At the onset of NAFLD, you will not notice any symptoms, but eventually, you’ll experience fatigue, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and nausea. 

If you notice mental confusion, itching, spider-like veins, the buildup of fluid and swelling in your legs or abdomen, or jaundice you should talk to your doctor about NAFLD.  Currently, there isn’t a cure for NAFLD but there are steps you can take in order to slow down liver damage. Start eating a healthy diet, exercise regularly, control your diabetes, and lower your cholesterol levels. If you are overweight or obese, it is best to lose weight in order to manage NAFLD.

NAFLD Links to Cancer


A recent study from the Mayo Clinic collected data from 19,223 adults between 1997 and 2017. In an attempt to prove that NAFLD had a direct link to cancer, 4,791 of those adults had already been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The researchers discovered that those with NAFLD had a 91% chance of developing cancer— specifically GI cancers. Overweight men and women who had previously been diagnosed with NAFLD were at a higher risk for cancer than those without the disease. 

In this study, there was a higher development of cancer in the colon, liver, stomach, and pancreas. In fact, overweight or obese men with NAFLD proved to have a higher risk for colon cancer than overweight women. Based on data from research, those who develop NAFLD at a younger age are at a higher risk for developing colon and pancreatic cancer, regardless of sex. All in all, this research shows that there is a direct link between NAFLD and cancer risk which is a huge warning sign for obese men and women.

Preventing NAFLD


While a cure for NAFLD is unavailable, you are able to protect your liver from NAFLD and help to avoid a cancer diagnosis. Eat a healthy diet that is mainly plant-based, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Limit your alcohol intake and make sure you are taking the correct dosage of any medications. Talk to your doctor about various forms of exercise that are best for you. If you are overweight or obese, begin taking care of your body by taking control over your health. That starts by a making few lifestyle adjustments and working to maintain a healthy weight. 

If you are concerned about your risk for NAFLD, contact our offices at Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. Begin taking your health—and your weight—seriously.