Weight & cancer research findings

Our researchers have explored the link between body composition - including body fatness and height - and cancer

Below are the results from some of the research we have funded.


Anthropometric markers of childhood nutrition and cancer: associations of height, leg length, foot size and shoulder breadth with cancer in the Boyd Orr cohort

David Gunnell, at University of Bristol, UK, looked at associations between adult cancer risk and childhood height, along with leg, foot and trunk length.

The research found cancer risk is increased in larger children, but an opposite association was found for cardiovascular disease. The grant therefore concluded that we should not intervene to reduce childhood growth but that these measurements are useful tools in the exploring childhood circumstances, particularly diet, and in identifying important periods of growth in terms of later disease risk.


Can metabolic factors explain the difference in the association of body mass index with risk of colorectal cancer between men and women?

Tobias Pischon, at Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Germany, studied the relationship between metabolic factors and risk of colorectal cancer and whether these metabolic factors may account for the observed difference between sexes in the association of body mass index (BMI) with CRC risk.

The research supported the hypothesis that the observed gender difference in the association between BMI and risk of CRC is likely due to the fact that in women, BMI as a marker of obesity does not accurately assess abdominal fatness and related metabolic abnormalities, which are the factors related to risk of colorectal cancer. Measuring metabolic biomarkers may allow more precise characterization of the obesity phenotype that is related to disease risk.


Inflammation factors and endometrial cancer: a prospective study

Rudolf Kaaks, at German Cancer Research Centre, assessed the relationship between inflammation factors and endometrial cancer.

This research found that women with the highest levels of pre-diagnostic inflammatory markers had a 60% to 80% higher risk of developing endometrial cancer. This shows that inflammation factors play a role in endometrial cancer, however further prospective studies are needed to confirm these observations.


Early life, adiposity rebound, puberty: which nutrients, food groups, dietary or anthropometric patterns are critical for body fatness and the GH-IGF-axis in young adulthood?

Anette Buyken, at University of Bonn, Germany, addressed the hypothesis that cancer risk can be influenced during sensitive periods of growth.

This research found new insights into factors potentially programming cancer risk during growth.


Preventable and attributable global burden of cancer due to excess body mass index in adults

Isabelle Soerjomataram, at IARC, France, assessed the global burden of cancer due to excess weight.

The research found nearly half a million new cancer cases could be linked to high body mass index and that cancer due to overweight and obesity is more common in more developed countries. It also found that the proportion of cancers related to obesity is higher in women than in men. These results suggest lifestyle and physical environment changes are the best option for reducing the large and increasing burden of cancer globally.