Characterizing the neighborhood obesogenic environment in the Multiethnic Cohort: a multi-level infrastructure for cancer health disparities research

Cancer Causes Control. 2018 Jan;29(1):167-183. doi: 10.1007/s10552-017-0980-1. Epub 2017 Dec 8.


Purpose: We characterized the neighborhood obesogenic environment in the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) by examining the associations of obesity with attributes of the social and built environment, establishing a multi-level infrastructure for future cancer research.

Methods: For 102,906 African American, Japanese American, Latino, and white MEC participants residing predominately in Los Angeles County, baseline residential addresses (1993-1996) were linked to census and geospatial data, capturing neighborhood socioeconomic status (nSES), population density, commuting, food outlets, amenities, walkability, and traffic density. We examined neighborhood attributes and obesity (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2) associations using multinomial logistic regression, adjusting for individual-level (e.g., demographics, physical activity, and diet) and neighborhood-level factors.

Results: NSES was associated with obesity among African Americans, Latinos, and whites (p-trend ≤ 0.02), with twofold higher odds (adjusted odds ratios, 95% confidence intervals) for living in the lowest versus highest quintile among African American women (2.07, 1.62-2.65), white men (2.11, 1.29-3.44), and white women (2.50, 1.73-3.61). Lower density of businesses among African American and white women and lower traffic density among white men were also associated with obesity (p-trends ≤ 0.02).

Conclusions: Our study highlights differential impacts of neighborhood factors across racial/ethnic groups and establishes the foundation for multi-level studies of the neighborhood context and obesity-related cancers.

Keywords: Neighborhood environment; Obesity; Race/ethnicity; Socioeconomic status.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomedical Research
  • Body Mass Index
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet
  • Ethnicity
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Racial Groups
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Class