Study: Obese Children Will Have 50% Higher Risk of Colon Cancer

The newest reason for doing everything possible to reduce childhood obesity names certain cancers as risks associated with a high BMI.

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Joe Tan / Reuters

PROBLEM: Childhood obesity is associated with all sorts of immediate health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing and joint problems, along with an increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. This study set out to examine the relationship between childhood obesity and future diagnoses of urothelial, or bladder, and colorectal cancers.

METHODOLOGY: Researchers at Tel Aviv University appropriated the health information of 1.1 million males that had been collected by the Israeli Defense Forces and then linked this medical data to the National Cancer Registry. They looked specifically at the rates of urothelial and colorectal cancer over a follow-up period of 18 years in those who were obese, meaning that they had a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile and above, at age 17. Adjustments were made for year of birth, level of education, and religiosity.

RESULTS: Those whose BMI placed them in the range of obesity in adolescence had a 1.42% greater chance of developing urothelial or colorectal cancers in adulthood.

CONCLUSION: Childhood obesity is associated with a 50% higher risk of urothelial or colorectal cancers.

IMPLICATIONS: While these results only tell us about the incidences of two specific types of cancer, Ari Shamiss, one of the doctors involved in the study, has indicated that he is currently researching connections between childhood obesity and other cancers in the hopes of uncovering other connections. We still need to learn whether obesity is directly causing the high risk of cancer, and, perhaps most essentially, whether losing weight is effective -- and if so, how much and when - in lowering it.

The full study, "Overweight in Adolescence is Related to Increased Risk of Future Urothelial Cancer," is published in the journal Obesity .


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Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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