Association between hyperinsulinemia and increased risk of cancer death in nonobese and obese people: A population-based observational study

Int J Cancer. 2017 Jul 1;141(1):102-111. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30729. Epub 2017 Apr 22.


Obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are associated with cancer-related mortality. We assessed whether hyperinsulinemia is a risk factor for cancer death in nonobese people without diabetes. We conducted a prospective cohort study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2010 and followed up the participants until December 31, 2011. For the primary analysis of cancer mortality, we used Cox proportional hazard models to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) in the participants with hyperinsulinemia and those without. Hyperinsulinemia was defined as a fasting insulin level of ≥10 μU/mL. To identify causes of deaths, the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision codes were used. This study included 9,778 participants aged 20 years or older without diabetes or a history of cancer: 6,718 nonobese participants (2,057 with hyperinsulinemia [30.6%]) and 3,060 obese participants (2,303 with hyperinsulinemia [75.3%]). A total of 99.9% completed follow-up. Among all study participants, cancer mortality was significantly higher in those with hyperinsulinemia than in those without hyperinsulinemia (adjusted HR 2.04, 95% CI 1.24-3.34, p = 0.005). Similarly, among nonobese participants, multivariable analysis showed that cancer mortality was significantly higher in those with hyperinsulinemia than in those without (adjusted HR 1.89, 95% CI 1.07-3.35, p = 0.02). Considering that nonobese people with hyperinsulinemia were at higher risk of cancer mortality than those without hyperinsulinemia, improvement of hyperinsulinemia may be an important approach for preventing cancer regardless of the presence or absence of obesity.

Keywords: cancer; cancer mortality; hyperinsulinemia; nonobesity; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / complications
  • Hyperinsulinism / mortality*
  • Hyperinsulinism / pathology
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome / mortality
  • Metabolic Syndrome / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / mortality*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors