Abdominal obesity and colorectal cancer risk: systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies

Biosci Rep. 2017 Dec 12;37(6):BSR20170945. doi: 10.1042/BSR20170945. Print 2017 Dec 22.


The association between abdominal obesity (as measured by waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR)) and colorectal cancer (CRC) has not been fully quantified, and the magnitude of CRC risk associated with abdominal obesity is still unclear. A meta-analysis of prospective studies was performed to elucidate the CRC risk associated with abdominal obesity. Pubmed and Embase were searched for studies assessing the association between abdominal obesity and CRC risk. Relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were pooled using random-effects model of meta-analysis. Nineteen prospective cohort studies from eighteen publications were included in this meta-analysis. A total of 12,837 CRC cases were identified among 1,343,560 participants. Greater WC and WHR were significantly associated with increased risk of total colorectal cancer (WC: RR 1.42, 95% CI 1.30, 1.55; WHR: RR 1.39, 95% CI 1.25, 1.53), colon cancer (WC: RR 1.53, 95% CI 1.36, 1.72; WHR: 1.39, 95% CI 1.18, 1.63), and rectal cancer (WC: RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.03, 1.39; WHR: RR 1.22, 95% CI 1.05, 1.42). Subgroup analyses further identified the robustness of the association above. No obvious risk of publication bias was observed. In summary, abdominal obesity may play an important role in the development of CRC.

Keywords: abdominal obesity; central obesity; colorectal cancer; waist circumference; waist to hip ratio.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity, Abdominal / complications*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Waist Circumference / physiology
  • Waist-Hip Ratio / adverse effects