Obesity and cancer: the role of dysfunctional adipose tissue

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Oct;18(10):2569-78. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-0372. Epub 2009 Sep 15.


Overweight and obesity are health problems of epidemic proportions, increasing the risk not only of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus but also of various types of cancer. Obesity is strongly associated with changes in the physiological function of adipose tissue, leading to insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and altered secretion of adipokines. Several of these factors, such as insulin resistance, increased levels of leptin, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, and endogenous sex steroids, decreased levels of adiponectin, and chronic inflammation, are involved in carcinogenesis and cancer progression. This article reviews these mechanisms, focusing on adipose tissue dysfunction as a unifying causal factor. Although understanding of the link between obesity and cancer might provide therapeutic targets, preventing overweight and obesity still remains number one priority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*