Visceral Obesity and Its Shared Role in Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scoping Review of the Pathophysiology and Pharmacological Treatments

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 27;21(23):9042. doi: 10.3390/ijms21239042.


The association between obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been demonstrated in animal and epidemiological studies. However, the specific role of visceral obesity on cancer and CVD remains unclear. Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is a complex and metabolically active tissue, that can produce different adipokines and hormones, responsible for endocrine-metabolic comorbidities. This review explores the potential mechanisms related to VAT that may also be involved in cancer and CVD. In addition, we discuss the shared pharmacological treatments which may reduce the risk of both diseases. This review highlights that chronic inflammation, molecular aspects, metabolic syndrome, secretion of hormones and adiponectin associated to VAT may have synergistic effects and should be further studied in relation to cancer and CVD. Reductions in abdominal and visceral adiposity improve insulin sensitivity, lipid profile and cytokines, which consequently reduce the risk of CVD and some cancers. Several medications have shown to reduce visceral and/or subcutaneous fat. Further research is needed to investigate the pathophysiological mechanisms by which visceral obesity may cause both cancer and CVD. The role of visceral fat in cancer and CVD is an important area to advance. Public health policies to increase public awareness about VAT's role and ways to manage or prevent it are needed.

Keywords: cancer; cardiovascular disease; pathophysiological mechanisms; pharmacological treatments; visceral obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / complications
  • Obesity, Abdominal / drug therapy*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors