Excess Body Fatness during Early to Mid-Adulthood and Survival from Colorectal and Breast Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of Five International Cohort Studies

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2022 Feb;31(2):325-333. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-21-0688. Epub 2021 Nov 15.


Background: Here, we explore the association between excess weight during early to mid-adulthood and survival in patients diagnosed with breast and colorectal cancer, using a pooled analysis of five cohort studies and study participants from 11 countries.

Methods: Participant-level body mass index (BMI) trajectories were estimated by fitting a growth curve model using over 2 million repeated BMI measurements from close to 600,000 cohort participants. Cumulative measures of excess weight were derived. Data from over 23,000 patients with breast and colorectal cancer were subsequently analyzed using time-to-event models for death with the date of diagnosis as start of follow-up. Study-specific results were combined through a random effect meta-analysis.

Results: We found a significant dose-response relationship (P trend = 0.013) between the average BMI during early and mid-adulthood and death from breast cancer, with a pooled HR of 1.31 (1.07-1.60) and the time to death shortened by 16% for average BMI above 25 kg/m2 compared with average BMI less than or equal to 22.5 kg/m2, respectively. Similar results were found for categories of cumulative time spent with excess weight. There was no association between excess body fatness during early to mid-adulthood and death in patients with colorectal cancer.

Conclusions: Excess body fatness during early to mid-adulthood is associated not only with an increased risk of developing cancer, but also with a lower survival in patients with breast cancer.

Impact: Our results emphasize the importance of public health policies aimed at reducing overweight during adulthood and inform future studies on the relationship between excess weight and cancer outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Overweight