The epidemiology and molecular mechanisms linking obesity, diabetes, and cancer

Vitam Horm. 2013:93:51-98. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-416673-8.00010-1.


The worldwide epidemic of obesity is associated with increasing rates of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Epidemiological studies have reported that these conditions are linked to increased rates of cancer incidence and mortality. Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is associated with insulin resistance and the development of dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, and ultimately type 2 diabetes. Although many metabolic abnormalities occur with obesity and type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia appear to be central to these conditions and may contribute to dyslipidemia and altered levels of circulating estrogens and androgens. In this review, we will discuss the epidemiological and molecular links between obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and how hyperinsulinemia and dyslipidemia may contribute to cancer development. We will discuss how these metabolic abnormalities may interact with estrogen signaling in breast cancer growth. Finally, we will discuss the effects of type 2 diabetes medications on cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology