Gut microbiota-mediated inflammation in obesity: a link with gastrointestinal cancer

Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Nov;15(11):671-682. doi: 10.1038/s41575-018-0025-6.


Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk of developing metabolic disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, besides these metabolic diseases, excess body weight is also associated with different cancers, including gastrointestinal cancers, such as liver, pancreatic and colon cancers. Inflammation is a common feature of both obesity and cancer; however, the origin of this inflammation has been largely debated. Over the past decade, growing evidence has shown that the composition of the gut microbiota and its activity might be associated not only with the onset of inflammation but also with metabolic disorders and cancer. Here, we review the links between the gut microbiota, gut barrier function and the onset of low-grade inflammation in the development of gastrointestinal cancer. We also describe the mechanisms by which specific microorganism-associated molecular patterns crosstalk with the immune system and how the metabolic activity of bacteria induces specific signalling pathways beyond the gut that eventually trigger carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Obesity / complications*