Biological mechanisms linking obesity and cancer risk: new perspectives

Annu Rev Med. 2010;61:301-16. doi: 10.1146/annurev.med.080708.082713.

Abstract

Body mass index, as an approximation of body adiposity, is associated with increased risk of several common and less common malignancies in a sex- and site-specific manner. These findings implicate sex- and cancer site-specific biological mechanisms underpinning these associations, and it is unlikely that there is a "one system fits all" mechanism. Three main candidate systems have been proposed-insulin and the insulin-like growth factor-I axis, sex steroids, and adipokines-but there are shortfalls to these hypotheses. In this review, three novel candidate mechanisms are proposed: obesity-induced hypoxia, shared genetic susceptibility, and migrating adipose stromal cells. While public health policies aimed at curbing the underlying causes of the obesity epidemic are being implemented, there is a parallel need to better understand the biological processes linking obesity and cancer as a prerequisite to the development of new approaches to prevention and treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / physiology
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Somatomedins / physiology

Substances

  • Adipokines
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Insulin
  • Somatomedins