There are many theories why heavier women might be less likely to undergo health screenings, Cohen said. "It may be related to patients' emotional barriers, things like embarrassment and fear of being weighed. It may be provider-bias, physicians having a bias against obese patients. And [obese women] have other health-care needs, like dealing with high cholesterol."
Another possibility is that medical equipment may not be sized properly to accommodate larger patients, Cohen said. "None of this has been studied in any quantitative way," she added.
Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, an associate professor in the department of breast medical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said another possibility was that "women with low-incomes choose high-caloric foods and have difficulty in being particularly careful with their lifestyle. They may also be largely uninsured and have minimal access to screening programs."
"We should recognize that prevention of obesity is a critical issue," Cristofanilli added. "Education about a healthy lifestyle should start at school and continue through media and in the family."
To calculate your BMI, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Sarah S. Cohen, graduate student, department of epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., associate professor, department of breast medical oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; May 1, 2008, Cancer
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