Body mass index at early adulthood, subsequent weight change and cancer incidence and mortality

Int J Cancer. 2014 Dec 15;135(12):2900-9. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28930. Epub 2014 May 8.


Obesity later in adulthood is associated with increased risks of many cancers. However, the effect of body fatness in early adulthood, and change in weight from early to later adulthood on cancer risk later in life is less clear. We used data from 13,901 people aged 45-64 in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities cohort who at baseline (1987-1989) self-reported their weight at the age of 25 and had weight and height measured. Incident cancers were identified through 2006 and cancer deaths were ascertained through 2009. Multivariable Cox proportional hazard models were used to relate body mass index (BMI) at age 25 and percent weight change from age 25 to baseline to cancer incidence and mortality. After adjusting for weight change from age 25 until baseline, a 5 kg/m(2) increment in BMI at age 25 was associated with a greater risk of incidence of all cancers in women [hazard ratio (95% confidence interval): 1.10 (1.02-1.20)], but not in men. Associations with incident endometrial cancer were strong [1.83 (1.47-2.26)]. After adjusting for BMI at age 25, a 5% increment in weight from age 25 to baseline was associated with a greater risk of incident postmenopausal breast cancer [1.05 (1.02-1.07)] and endometrial cancer [1.09 (1.04-1.14)] in women and incident colorectal cancer [1.05 (1.00-1.10)] in men. Excess weight during young adulthood and weight gain from young to older adulthood may be independently associated with subsequent cancer risk. Excess weight and weight gain in early adulthood should be avoided.

Keywords: body mass index; cancer risk; early adulthood; obesity; weight gain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / mortality*
  • Postmenopause
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Gain*