Overweight boys at greater risk of colon cancer as adults, but losing weight may modify risk

May 20, 2017

New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal (17-20 May) suggests that overweight boys may be at greater risk of colon (bowel) cancer when they grow up than their slimmer friends. However, overweight boys who shed the pounds and achieve a healthy weight by young adulthood do not appear to be at increased risk of colon cancer as adults. The findings underline how important it is for children to be a healthy weight.

Colon is the 4th most common cancer in adults, with around 41,000 cases diagnosed each year in the UK. Previous research shows that are at higher risk of as adults, but it is unclear whether changes in (BMI) between childhood and alter this risk.

In this study, Dr Britt Wang Jensen and Associate Professor Jennifer Baker from Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark and colleagues analysed the health records of over 61,000 Danish school boys born between 1939 and 1959, to examine how changes in BMI in childhood and young adulthood are associated with colon cancer risk in adulthood. Participants' weight and height were measured at age 7 years and in young adulthood (age 17-26 years) and BMI was calculated. These were then linked with the Danish Cancer Register and followed from the age of 40 years to identify cases of colon cancer.

During an average (median) 25-year follow-up, more than 700 boys went on to develop colon cancer. Analyses showed that boys who were overweight (BMI greater than 17.88 kg/m2) at age 7 years but normal weight (BMI under 25.0 kg/m2) as young men had similar risk of adult colon cancer as those who maintained a stable, throughout. In contrast, overweight boys who remained overweight as young men had twice the colon cancer risk. The study took educational level into account but not lifestyle factors that might contribute to a person's risk of developing cancer.

The authors conclude: "Overweight boys that lose weight and achieve a normal-weight status by young adulthood do not carry an increased risk of adult colon cancer compared with boys who remain normal-weight as young men. However, overweight boys who remain overweight as young men have an increased risk of adult colon cancer. These results highlight the importance of weight management in childhood."

They add: "Our next steps are to expand our focus and examine other forms of cancer along with other non-communicable diseases to create a full picture of how a man's weight development across his life, even from birth, is associated with his risk of disease."

Explore further: Keeping young women's weight gain to less than 800g/year helps prevent progression from healthy weight to overweight

Related Stories

Keeping young women's weight gain to less than 800g/year helps prevent progression from healthy weight to overweight

May 19, 2017
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal (17-20 May) shows that rates of weight gain are established by the time women are 18-23 years old. Measuring rates of weight gain ...

Excess weight early in life linked to colon cancer risk in women

April 2, 2015
(HealthDay)—Women who were overweight as children and teens may have a greater risk of colon cancer, no matter what their current weight, a new study cautions.

Keep colon cancer at bay

March 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—Colon cancer can be treated and cured if it's diagnosed early, and a colonoscopy is one of the best ways to detect the disease, a gastroenterologist says.

Family history of colon cancer calls for earlier screening

March 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you've got a family history of colon or rectal cancers, you probably need to start screening for these conditions before you turn 50, a cancer expert says.

Being overweight in childhood may heighten lifetime risk of depression

May 19, 2017
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity suggests that being overweight, especially from a young age, may substantially increase the lifetime risk of major depression.

Overweight children may be at higher risk of oesophageal cancer as adults

February 5, 2015
Overweight children may be at higher risk of oesophageal (gullet) cancer when they grow up than their slimmer friends, according to research published this week in the British Journal of Cancer.

Recommended for you

Physical activity could combat fatigue, cognitive decline in cancer survivors

July 25, 2017
A new study indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and "chemo brain": a brisk walk.

Breaking the genetic resistance of lung cancer and melanoma

July 25, 2017
Researchers from Monash University and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York) have discovered why some cancers – particularly lung cancer and melanoma – are able to quickly develop deadly resistance ...

Anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agent inhibits glioblastoma growth and radiation resistance

July 24, 2017
Glioblastoma is a primary brain tumor with dismal survival rates, even after treatment with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A small subpopulation of tumor cells—glioma stem cells—is responsible for glioblastoma's ...

New therapeutic approach for difficult-to-treat subtype of ovarian cancer identified

July 24, 2017
A potential new therapeutic strategy for a difficult-to-treat form of ovarian cancer has been discovered by Wistar scientists. The findings were published online in Nature Cell Biology.

Immune cells the missing ingredient in new bladder cancer treatment

July 24, 2017
New research offers a possible explanation for why a new type of cancer treatment hasn't been working as expected against bladder cancer.

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.