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Obesity and age in cancer occurrence

Children and adolescents who are obese are more likely to develop cancer. More extended periods of obesity or being overweight are also associated with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer. Several studies have shown obesity and obesogenic diets to have implications for cancer development in mice, shifting cancers' occurrence to an earlier age. Consequently, obesity, especially morbid obesity, is associated with multiple cancers developing earlier. Over the last century, obesity has increased the incidence of many obesity-associated cancers (OACs). However, little is known about how the burden of obesity-related cancers is changing over time within different age groups, races/ethnicities, and sexes. In addition to understanding the epidemiology, understanding pathogenesis, public health, and health care implications, such an analysis, is essential.[1]

Parallel increases in obesity-related illnesses, healthcare costs, and mortality have been associated with these developments, particularly those caused by cardiovascular disease and cancer. For example, about half of all cancer cases worldwide in 2012 were linked to obesity; these cases primarily occurred in Europe and North America, among other higher-income regions. In addition to varying obesity rates, these disparities reveal differences in the strength of the connection between cancer and obesity among different populations and differences in other risk factors that modify the association, including smoking, diabetes, and hormone therapy (HT).[2]

Despite the well-documented association between obesity and cancer, most studies investigating this association rely on individual height and weight measurements, and evidence of the cumulative effects of overweight over life remains scarce. However, long-term obesity is a predictor of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and overall mortality. In addition, the proliferation of insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, oxidative DNA damage, and altered levels of endogenous hormones - all of which are believed to be cancer-promoting factors - increases with prolonged exposure to being overweight - suggesting that its length may be an important, but unstudied, predictor of cancer development.[2]

Malignancies associated with obesity comprise around 20% of all cancers, although their influence is gender and site-specific. In most cases, obesity and higher cancer risk are related to anthropometric parameters and lifestyle factors. Body mass index (BMI), weight change, and visceral fat are all indicative of anthropometric parameters. In addition, several lifestyle factors contribute to obesity, including sedentary lifestyles and low-quality diets. Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, hormones of sex and sex hormone-binding proteins, low-grade inflammation in general and adipose tissue, changes in the production of adipokines in adipose tissue, endocrine disruption, and immune impairment are the most important biological mechanisms mediating the unfavorable influence of the above factors.[3]


1. Koroukian, S. (2019, August 14). Changes in age distribution of obesity-associated cancers. JAMA Network Open. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from

2. Arnold, M., Freisling, H., Stolzenberg-Solomon, R., Kee, F., O'Doherty, M. G., Ordóñez-Mena, J. M., Wilsgaard, T., May, A. M., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H. B., Tjønneland, A., Orfanos, P., Trichopoulou, A., Boffetta, P., Bray, F., Jenab, M., & Soerjomataram, I. (2016, September). Overweight duration in older adults and cancer risk: A study of cohorts in Europe and the United States. European journal of epidemiology. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from

3. De Pergola, G., & Silvestris, F. (2013). Obesity as a major risk factor for cancer. Journal of obesity. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from



Author: Rayven Hall

Editor: Lauryn Agron

Health scientist: Rayven Hall

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