Obesity and risk of malignant melanoma: a meta-analysis of cohort and case-control studies

Eur J Cancer. 2013 Feb;49(3):642-57. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2012.08.028. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


Although obesity is an established risk factor for several cancer types, its possible role in the aetiology of malignant melanoma remains unclear. This meta-analysis aims to examine the association between obesity and melanoma risk, exploring any tentative gender-specific associations. After the identification of eligible studies, we estimated pooled effect estimates (odds ratios and relative risks), undertook a meta-regression analysis and analysed separately risk of malignant melanoma among males and females in relation to body mass index (BMI) and body surface area (BSA). Out of the 21 eligible articles, 11 used a case-control design encompassing 4460 cases/6342 controls; 10 used a cohort design whose total size comprised 7895 incident cases/6,368,671 subjects. Among males, the pooled effect estimate was 1.31 (95%confidence interval (CI): 1.18-1.45) for overweight and 1.31 (95%CI: 1.19-1.44) for obese. Meta-regression revealed no significant slope, most probably due to the underlying plateau in effect estimates. Among females, no significant association was documented; the pooled effect estimate for overweight and obese subjects was 0.98 (95%CI: 0.92-1.05) and 0.99 (95%CI: 0.83-1.18), respectively. Noticeably, there was evidence for confounding between sunlight exposure and obesity in females. All results were reproducible upon analyses on BSA. In conclusion, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk of malignant melanoma among males. Meticulous assessment of sunlight exposure is needed especially in women, since self limited public sun exposure may be prevalent among overweight or obese females. Higher-order associations between BMI and melanoma risk should be addressed and examined by the future studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Surface Area
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / etiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Risk
  • Sex Characteristics