Metabolic syndrome and the risk of severe cancer events: a longitudinal study in Japanese workers

BMC Cancer. 2023 Jun 16;23(1):555. doi: 10.1186/s12885-023-11026-7.


Background: Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with cancer risk; however, little is known regarding its relationship with the risk of cancer-related premature death and long-term sick leave (LTSL), which can lead to a substantial loss in working years. The present study aimed to quantify the all-site and site-specific associations between MetS and the risk of severe cancer events (a composite outcome of LTSL and mortality due to cancer) in a large working population in Japan.

Methods: We recruited 70,875 workers (59,950 men and 10,925 women), aged 20-59 years, who attended health check-ups in 2011 (10 companies) and 2014 (2 companies). All workers underwent follow up for severe cancer events until March 31, 2020. MetS was defined in accordance with the Joint Interim Statement. Cox regression models were used to quantify the association between baseline MetS and severe cancer events.

Results: During 427,379 person-years of follow-up, 523 participants experienced the outcome consisting of 493 LTSLs of which 124 eventually resulted in death, and 30 deaths without taking LTSL. The adjusted hazard ratios (HR) (95% confidence intervals [CI]) for composite severe events due to all-site, obesity-related, and non-obesity-related cancer among those with vs. without MetS were 1.26 (1.03, 1.55), 1.37 (1.04, 1.82), and 1.15 (0.84, 1.56), respectively. In cancer site-specific analyses, MetS was associated with an increased risk of severe events due to pancreatic cancer (HR, 2.06; 95% CI, 0.99-4.26). When mortality was treated solely as the endpoint, the association was significant for all-site (HR, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.10-2.26), and obesity-related (HR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.00-2.54) cancer. Additionally, a greater number of MetS components was associated with a greater risk of both severe cancer events and cancer-related mortality (P trend < 0.05).

Conclusion: Among Japanese workers, MetS was associated with an increased risk of severe cancer events, especially those due to obesity-linked cancer.

Keywords: Japan; Long-term sick leave; Metabolic syndrome; Mortality; Severe cancer events.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • East Asian People
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult