Metabolic health may affect cancer risk in obesity

Credit: National Cancer Institute.

In a study from Lund University, scientists found metabolic health may play an important role in cancers related to obesity.

In the study, for up to 40 years, nearly 800,000 people from Sweden, Norway and Austria have been tracked based on how their BMI and metabolic health, including blood pressure, blood glucose levels and blood fats, affect the risk of obesity-related cancers.

The team found that those who are metabolically unhealthy are at a higher risk of certain forms of cancer, regardless of their body weight.

It is already known that obesity is linked to more than ten different cancers.

In the study, the team examined how metabolic health interacts with body weight in relation to the risk of obesity-related cancer.

The researchers included data from health surveys and national registries from nearly 800,000 individuals through the years 1972-2014.

By weighing together data on blood pressure, blood sugar and blood fats in the form of triglycerides, they produced a metabolic score that determined whether the people were considered metabolically healthy or unhealthy.

Based on BMI (Body Mass Index), the participants were also divided into the categories of normal weight, overweight or obese.

During the follow-up period of up to 40 years, 23,630 individuals were diagnosed with obesity-related cancer.

It was no surprise to see that a higher BMI increased the risk of cancer, but being metabolically unhealthy was also linked to an increased risk.

The highest risk was found among individuals with metabolically unhealthy obesity, which was associated with the highest risk for cancer of the liver, kidney, and among women also for endometrial cancer.

Another important finding was that metabolic unhealthy in itself represented an increased risk of obesity-related cancer—regardless of whether one was of normal weight, overweight or obese.

The researchers suggest that obesity and metabolic disease interacted in a way that increased the risk of certain cancers more than expected when the two factors were combined.

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The study was conducted by Tanja Stocks et al and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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