Obesity and breast cancer: status of leptin and adiponectin in pathological processes

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2010 Dec;29(4):641-53. doi: 10.1007/s10555-010-9252-1.


It is well recognized that obesity increases the risk of various cancers, including breast malignancies in postmenopausal women. Furthermore, obesity may adversely affect tumor progression, metastasis, and overall prognosis in both pre- and postmenopausal women with breast cancer. However, the precise mechanism(s) through which obesity acts is/are still elusive and this relationship has been the subject of much investigation and speculation. Recently, adipose tissue and its associated cytokine-like proteins, adipokines, particularly leptin and adiponectin, have been investigated as mediators for the association of obesity with breast cancer. Higher circulating levels of leptin found in obese subjects could be a growth-enhancing factor as supported by in vitro and preclinical studies, whereas low adiponectin levels in obese women may be permissive for leptin's growth-promoting effects. These speculations are supported by in vitro studies which indicate that leptin promotes human breast cancer cell proliferation while adiponectin exhibits anti-proliferative actions. Further, estrogen and its receptors have a definite impact on the response of human breast cancer cell lines to leptin and adiponectin. More in-depth studies are needed to provide additional and precise links between the in vivo development of breast cancer and the balance of adiponectin and leptin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology


  • Adiponectin
  • Leptin