A weighty problem: metabolic perturbations and the obesity-cancer link

Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2015 Aug;23(2):47-57. doi: 10.1515/hmbci-2015-0022.


Obesity is an established risk factor for several cancers, including breast, colon, endometrial, ovarian, gastric, pancreatic and liver, and is increasingly a public health concern. Obese cancer patients often have poorer prognoses, reduced response to standard treatments, and are more likely to develop metastatic disease than normo-weight individuals. Many of the pathologic features of obesity promote tumor growth, such as metabolic perturbations, hormonal and growth factor imbalances, and chronic inflammation. Although obesity exacerbates tumor development, the interconnected relationship between the two conditions presents opportunities for new treatment approaches, some of which may be more successful in obese cohorts. Here, we discuss the many ways in which excess adiposity can impact cancer development and progression and address potential preventive and therapeutic strategies to reduce the burden of obesity-related cancers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / complications
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Microbiota
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Adipokines
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I