Background: Abdominal obesity--an elevated level of visceral adipose tissue--has been linked to colorectal cancer. Furthermore, elevated levels of visceral adipose tissue have been associated with hyperinsulinemia, and insulin is a growth factor in the colon. We assessed whether waist circumference, a surrogate measure of visceral adipose tissue, and metabolic parameters associated with visceral adipose tissue were related to colorectal cancer.
Methods: In the Cardiovascular Health Study cohort, we examined the relationship of baseline measurements of body size, glucose, insulin, and lipoproteins to incident colorectal cancer. All P values are two-sided.
Results: Among 5849 participants, 102 incident cases of colorectal cancer were identified. Individuals in the highest quartile of fasting glucose had a nearly twofold increased risk of colorectal cancer (relative risk [RR] = 1.8; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.0-3.1), and the linear trend RR (LT RR = 1.2; 95% CI = 1.0-1.5) for fasting glucose level was statistically significant (P =. 02). Glucose and insulin levels 2 hours after oral glucose challenge also exhibited statistically significant associations with colorectal cancer (2-hour glucose levels: RR = 2.4 [95% CI = 1.2-4. 7]/LT RR = 1.3 [95% CI = 1.0-1.6; P =.02]; 2-hour insulin levels: RR = 2.0 [95% CI = 1.0-3.8]/LT RR = 1.2 [95% CI = 1.0-1.5; P =.04]). Analysis of fasting insulin levels suggested a threshold effect, with values above the median associated with colorectal cancer (RR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.1-2.4; P =.02). Higher levels of waist circumference were also statistically significantly associated with colorectal cancer (RR = 1.9; 95% CI = 1.1-3.3; P =.02).
Conclusions: These data provide, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence of an association between elevated visceral adipose tissue level, its associated metabolic effects, and colorectal cancer.