Gender, anthropometric factors and risk of colorectal cancer with particular reference to tumour location and TNM stage: a cohort study

Biol Sex Differ. 2012 Oct 16;3(1):23. doi: 10.1186/2042-6410-3-23.


Background: It remains unclear whether the increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) associated with obesity differs by gender, distribution of fat, tumour location and clinical (TNM) stage. The primary aim of this study was to examine these associations in 584 incident colorectal cancer cases from a Swedish prospective population-based cohort including 28098 men and women.

Methods: Seven anthropometric factors; height, weight, bodyfat percentage, hip circumference, waist circumference, BMI and waist-hip ratio (WHR) were categorized into quartiles of baseline anthropometric measurements. Relative risks of CRC, total risk as well as risk of different TNM stages, and risk of tumours located to the colon or rectum, were calculated for all cases, women and men, respectively, using multivariate Cox regression models.

Results: Obesity, as defined by all anthropometric variables, was significantly associated with an overall increased risk of CRC in both women and men. While none of the anthropometric measures was significantly associated with risk of tumour (T)-stage 1 and 2 tumours, all anthropometric variables were significantly associated with an increased risk of T-stage 3 and 4, in particular in men. In men, increasing quartiles of weight, hip, waist, BMI and WHR were significantly associated with an increased risk of lymph node positive (N1 and N2) disease, and risk of both non-metastatic (M0) and metastatic (M1) disease. In women, there were no or weak associations between obesity and risk of node-positive disease, but statistically significant associations between increased weight, bodyfat percentage, hip, BMI and M0 disease. Interestingly, there was an increased risk of colon but not rectal cancer in men, and rectal but not colon cancer in women, by increased measures of weight, hip-, waist circumference and bodyfat percentage.

Conclusions: This study is the first to show a relationship between obesity, measured as several different anthropometric factors, and an increased risk of colorectal cancer of more advanced clinical stage, in particular in men. These findings suggest that risk of CRC differs according to the method of characterising obesity, and also according to gender, location, and tumour stage.