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Obesity Biomarkers, Metabolism and Risk of Cancer: An Epidemiological Perspective

  • Katharina NimptschEmail author
  • Tobias Pischon
Chapter
Part of the Recent Results in Cancer Research book series (RECENTCANCER, volume 208)

Abstract

Obesity is associated with metabolic alterations that may pose a biological link between body fatness and risk of cancer. Elucidating the role of obesity-related biomarkers in cancer development is essential for developing targeted strategies aiming at obesity-associated cancer prevention. Molecular epidemiological studies of the past decades have provided evidence that major hormonal pathways linking obesity and cancer risk include the insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis, sex-steroid hormones, adipokines and chronic low-grade inflammation. These pathways are interrelated with each other, and their importance varies by obesity-related cancer type. The insulin/IGF-1 axis has been implicated to play an important mediating role in the association between obesity and risk of pancreatic, colorectal and prostate cancer. Endogenous sex-steroid hormone concentrations, in particular obesity-associated pre-diagnostic elevations of estrogens and androgens, play an important role in postmenopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer development. The adipokines adiponectin and leptin and adipocyte-mediated chronic low-grade inflammation represented by the acute-phase C-reactive protein may explain a substantial part of the association between obesity and risk of colorectal cancer. There is less evidence on whether these hormonal pathways play a mediating role in other obesity-associated types of cancer. In this chapter, the molecular epidemiologic evidence from prospective studies relating circulating obesity-related biomarkers to cancer risk is summarized, taking into account available evidence from Mendelian Randomization investigations aiming at improving causal inference.

Keywords

Obesity Cancer Biomarkers Metabolism Insulin IG-1 Adipokines Inflammation Sex-steroid hormones 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Epidemiology Research GroupMax Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)BerlinGermany

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