There’s one lifestyle factor all oncologists agree will reduce your risk of cancer.

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According to leading health experts, getting rid of excess weight should have nothing to do with ‘getting a bikini body’, and everything to do with lessening your risk of cancer. Yes, really.

In fact, oncologists say that aside from quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is actually the best thing you can do to minimise your risk of cancer, due to the increasing links they’re finding between obesity and cancer rates.

“It’s on track to overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer,” Therese Bevers, MD, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center told Oprah.com.

While scientists are still unsure why the relationship between obesity and cancer exists, there is growing evidence to suggest a connection, with researchers finding your weight affects your risk of certain cancers more than others.

Staying active is a key way to beat obesity – watch Paper Tiger demonstrate an easy core workout. (Post continues after video.)

In a study published last year in The Lancetresearchers based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed the link between body mass index (BMI) and the risk of 22 of the most common cancer types, using the anonymised health data of over five million UK adults.

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The first study of its size, the results linked BMI to 17 specific cancer types, which were significantly more than previously thought.

Obesity had the biggest effect on a woman’s risk of womb cancer, with researchers showing the higher a woman’s BMI, the greater her chances of developing the disease. High BMIs were also linked to higher risks of gallbladder, kidney, liver, colon, cervical, thyroid, ovarian and post-menopausal breast cancers.

The knock-on effects are also concerning, with The American Cancer Society claiming that one-third of all deaths from cancer in the US are linked to diet and physical activity such as being overweight or obese. (Post continues after gallery.)

While specific causes are still unclear, Jennifer Lugibel, senior physician at Boston’s Susan F. Smith Centre for Women’s Cancers, believes it could be to do with hormones.

“Higher levels of insulin, growth factors, inflammation, sex hormones—all are more common in obese patients and are possible explanations for how having a heavier body increases your odds of developing cancer,” she told Oprah.com.

However, what’s most important to remember about minimising your risk is it’s not necessarily about losing weight, but about keeping a healthy weight; being underweight also carries its own risks. If you are concerned about how your own health could impact your risk of cancer, the best thing to do is consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

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