Radiographic imaging exposes relationship between obesity and cancer

Researchers at the National Institute for Aging are working to improve understanding about obesity and cancer. A study, published today in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, is the first to use direct radiographic imaging of adipose tissue rather than estimates like body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference, and focuses on the relationship between obesity and cancer risk in aging populations. Findings emphasize the negative impact of adiposity on long term health particularly for older men and women.

The researchers investigated relationships between fat mass and risk of developing cancer in 2,519 older adults in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, a prospective, population-based study supported by the National Institute on Aging. They measured total body fat and body fat within the abdomen and thigh including visceral fat (adipose around the internal organs) and subcutaneous fat with radiographic images. Individuals were followed for cancer incidence over 13 years.

According to the study, "results suggest that adiposity may carry risk for cancers beyond those identified as obesity-related by the National Cancer Institute and further suggest a possible sex differential with respect to adipose and cancer risk."

Dr. Rachel Murphy, lead author on the study, is a researcher at the Laboratory of Epidemiology, and Population Sciences, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, in Bethesda, Maryland.

She said, "I think it's important to realize that BMI is not the only indicator of health to concentrate on. After controlling for risk factors we found that greater fat confers risk for cancer in older men and women. For example, women with more overall and more visceral fat had a higher risk of developing cancer."

"For men, greater visceral adipose was a particularly strong risk factor for many types of cancer regardless of the individual's BMI. Men with the most visceral fat had a nearly 3 times higher risk of many types of cancer (esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, kidney, thyroid, and gallbladder) compared to men with little visceral fat. When we controlled for BMI, the risk for visceral fat was strengthened."

"These findings provide new insight into obesity and cancer in old age, and suggest that interventions to target visceral adipose in addition to promotion of healthy body weight may impact future ."

More information: The article "Association of total and computed tomographic measures of regional adiposity with incident cancer risk: a prospective population-based study of older adults" is available Open Access in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2013-0360

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Central adiposity linked to risk of esophageal cancer

Nov 21, 2013

(HealthDay)—A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies shows that central adiposity, independent of body mass index (BMI), is associated with increased risk of esophageal inflammation, ...

Location of body fat can elevate heart disease, cancer risk

Jul 10, 2013

Individuals with excessive abdominal fat have a greater risk of heart disease and cancer than individuals with a similar body mass index (BMI) who carry their fat in other areas of the body, according to a study published ...

Visceral fat causally linked to intestinal cancer

Mar 06, 2013

Visceral fat, or fat stored deep in the abdominal cavity, is directly linked to an increased risk for colon cancer, according to data from a mouse study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Associ ...

Men with belly fat at risk for osteoporosis

Nov 28, 2012

Visceral, or deep belly, obesity is a risk factor for bone loss and decreased bone strength in men, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Recommended for you

Exercising restraint to stall tumor growth

2 hours ago

Many proteins undergo an assembly line-style process of glycosylation as they travel from a cellular structure called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi apparatus and on through its various compartments, ...

New tool to probe cancer's molecular make-up

Aug 26, 2014

Scientists have shown how to better identify and measure vital molecules that control cell behaviour – paving the way for improved tools for diagnosis, prediction and monitoring of cancer.

Mayo Clinic offers at-home colon cancer test

Aug 26, 2014

Mayo Clinic is taking another step toward making detection of colorectal cancer as convenient as possible, announcing Monday an at-home kit that arrives and is sent back in the mail, stool sample included.

User comments