CDC: 40 percent of new cancers tied to being overweight

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At 62, Ron Pavuk is much lighter, and much healthier than he used to be.

Just a few years back, the Cobb County, Georgia, trucking company owner says he weighed about 250 pounds, took daily medication for high blood pressure, and spends his nights hooked up to CPAP machine for sleep apnea. 

His eating habits, he says, were not good.

"I guess, as with most Americans, it was fast food, dashboard dining," Pavuk remembers.  "You got to the local steakhouse, you order the biggest thing and then eat everything they bring you."

Then, in December of 2014, Pavuk was diagnosed with a type of esophageal cancer known as adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.

It's one of 13 cancers, including liver, gall bladder, kidney, upper stomach, pancreas, and colon and rectal cancers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says may be associated with being either overweight or obese.

And with 2 out of 3 American adults now over their ideal weight, Cancer Treatment Centers of America Newnan oncologist Dr. Damien Hansra says he considers being overweight as "the new smoking."

Dr. Hansra says the vast majority of the post-menopausal breast cancer patients he treats at CTCA are overweight, which, the data shows, can raise their risk of developing cancer, and affect how well they fare with treatment.

"It is sad to me because this is preventable," Hansra says.  "And the prognosis, by the data, is clearly worse. So, it's sad to me that these patients are presenting to me with obesity and I know that they're prognosis is worse."

In 2014, the CDC says, 630,000 people in the US were diagnosed with a cancer associated with being overweight or obese, making up about 40% new cancer cases.

But Dr. Hansra says weight is a delicate subject.

"I definitely ask my patients first, 'Hey, do you think you have a problem with weight,'" he says. "And the vast majority of my patients, they say, 'Yes, you know what, doctor, I think I do.'"

As Ron Pavuk pushed through chemotherapy, radiation and then surgery -- at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, his wife Gail tackled the way they were eating.

And, by the time he rang the bell, signaling the official end of his treatment, Pavuk was well on his way to losing 80 pounds.

Today, the Pavuks try to eat organic produce, and smaller portions.

They also eat out less, and really pay attention to what they're eating.

"We still dine out, we still fudge," Pavuk says. "I'm a chocolate freak. I like my pastries and so forth. But eating early is a big key for us."

Ron Pavuk says cancer was his wakeup call that has helped him get healthier than he's been in decades.