Molecular mechanisms of cancer development in obesity

Nat Rev Cancer. 2011 Nov 24;11(12):886-95. doi: 10.1038/nrc3174.


The increasing incidence of obesity and its co-morbid conditions poses a great challenge to global health. In addition to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, epidemiological data demonstrate a link between obesity and multiple types of cancer. The molecular mechanisms underlying how obesity causes an increased risk of cancer are poorly understood. Obesity disrupts the dynamic role of the adipocyte in energy homeostasis, resulting in inflammation and alteration of adipokine (for example, leptin and adiponectin) signalling. Additionally, obesity causes secondary changes that are related to insulin signalling and lipid deregulation that may also foster cancer development. Understanding these molecular links may provide an avenue for preventive and therapeutic strategies to reduce cancer risk and mortality in an increasingly obese population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 / physiology
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Adiponectin
  • Cytokines
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor