Energy balance and cancers

Eur J Cancer Prev. 1999 Apr;8(2):77-89. doi: 10.1097/00008469-199904000-00002.


Energy balance results from the exact equilibrium between caloric intake and caloric expenditure. A caloric intake larger than caloric expenditure results in overweight, even obesity, but other determinants, like hormonal dysfunction and/or genetic traits may play a part in obesity syndrome. Obesity, and even overweight, have been recognized as risk factors for the development of cancers. Human epidemiological studies, which have tended to establish the nature of the relationship between energy balance and cancer, are summarized first, with the influence of the various factors which act both on obesity and on cancer risk. Among these factors are the macronutrients responsible for the caloric intake, and some lifestyle factors (physical activity, drinking habits and tobacco use). Second, the animal studies help to distinguish between different relevant factors, and to understand some of the underlying mechanisms. However, the insulin-resistance syndrome, which appears to underlie the relationship between obesity and hormone-dependent cancers, and possibly colon cancer, is only relevant to human physiology because hormonal alterations are part of it. Prevention of hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance and the accompanying visceral obesity appears to be a major public health task for the prevention of cancers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Life Style
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Risk Assessment