Obesity and Cancer Epidemiology

  • Rachel Ballard-Barbash
  • David Berrigan
  • Nancy Potischman
  • Emily Dowling
Part of the Energy Balance and Cancer book series (EBAC, volume 2)


Evidence has expanded extensively in the past two decades on the association between body mass index (BMI) and other measures of body composition and weight gain with many cancers. Evidence is convincing for obesity as a risk factor for cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, postmenopausal breast, endometrium, kidney, and thyroid and as probable for cancer of the gallbladder. Although not yet definitive, research is expanding rapidly for a number of other rare cancers and suggests associations for obesity and cancers of the ovary and liver and for several types of lymphoid and hematological malignancies. Associations between obesity and lung and head and neck cancers are confounded by tobacco use. An important shift in research has been the effort to examine the combined effect of overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet. Generally, studies that have examined these combinations of factors have found much greater increases in risk among people who have these adverse health profiles. A number of mechanisms are being explored related to obesity and cancer, including changes in sex hormones, insulin-related growth factors, inflammation, immune function, and other growth factors. Data on racial/ethnic groups other than non-Hispanic whites and Asians are limited for most cancers, but suggest there may be some differences in BMI and cancer associations in some subgroups. The continued global epidemics of obesity and diabetes mellitus are likely to contribute to global increases in a number of obesity-related cancers.


Body Mass Index Cancer Risk Renal Cell Carcinoma Bariatric Surgery Waist Circumference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Special thanks to Anne Rogers for editing the manuscript and Penny Randall-Levy for preparing the bibliography.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Ballard-Barbash
    • 1
  • David Berrigan
    • 2
  • Nancy Potischman
    • 1
  • Emily Dowling
    • 1
  1. 1.Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population SciencesNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Cancer Control and Population SciencesNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA

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