Obesity and cancer risk: a Danish record-linkage study

Eur J Cancer. 1994;30A(3):344-50. doi: 10.1016/0959-8049(94)90254-2.


A cohort of 43,965 obese persons was accrued on the basis of discharge registrations from Danish hospitals, and incidence of cancer in the cohort was compared to that in the Danish population as a whole using indirect standardisation for age and period. Increased incidence was observed for cancer of the uterine corpus independently of age [114 cases, relative risk (RR) = 2.0, confidence interval 1.6-2.4], and for breast cancer in women above the age of 70 (133 cases, RR = 1.2). These findings are consistent with previous studies. In younger women, breast cancer occurred less frequently and ovarian cancer occurred more frequently than expected. Increased incidence was observed for cancers of the oesophagus (26 cases, RR = 1.9) and the liver (58 cases, RR = 1.9), probably reflecting an increased prevalence of excessive alcohol consumption in the cohort. Increased incidence was furthermore observed for cancers of the pancreas (101 cases, RR = 1.7), the prostate (96 cases, RR = 1.3) and the colon (195 cases, RR = 1.2), which may indicate the existence of risk factors which are common to obesity and to these cancers, for example, dietary habits. Kidney cancer was increased in women only. Overall, the incidence of cancer was increased by 16% in the cohort. The results were essentially unchanged by restriction to the subcohort of 8207 persons in whom obesity was the primary discharge diagnosis, and were also similar in the first year of follow-up after hospital discharge. Selection bias is, therefore, not likely to have influenced the results.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Record Linkage
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Uterine Neoplasms / epidemiology