Adolescent males who were obese or had blood markers that suggested high levels of inflammation demonstrated a higher risk for colorectal cancer later in life, according to study results presented at the AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.
“Obesity and inflammation in adulthood have been implicated in colorectal cancer for a number of years,” Elizabeth Kantor, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the department of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a press release. “Little is known about the role of adolescent obesity and inflammation in the development of colorectal cancer.”
Kantor and colleagues pooled data on 239,464 Swedish males aged 16 to 20 years who enlisted in the military between 1969 and 1976. During that period, the males’ heights and weights were recorded, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) was used to measure inflammation.
During the median 35-year follow-up, researchers identified 885 cases of colorectal cancer; of these, 501 were colon cancers and 384 were rectal cancers.
Researchers determined those who were obese (BMI ≥30) during adolescence had more than a twofold increased risk for colorectal cancer (HR=2.37; 95% CI, 1.5-3.74) compared with those who were deemed normal weight (BMI, 18.5-25). The trend was statistically significant for cancers of the colon only (P<.001).
In addition, high level of inflammation (ESR≥15 mm/hr) during adolescence was associated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer (HR=1.63; 95% CI, 1.08-2.46) compared with those who had low levels of inflammation (ESR<10 mm/hr). Again, the trend was statistically significant for cancers of the colon only (P=.009).
“Our results suggest that early-life BMI and inflammation may independently play a role in the development of cancer later in life,” Kantor said. “These results are important because understanding how life-course exposure to high BMI and inflammation relates to colorectal cancer risk may improve our understanding of this disease and may help guide prevention strategies. However, further research is needed to better understand these relationships.”
For more information:
Kantor ED. Abstract #A42. Presented at: International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research; Sept. 28-Oct. 1, 2014; New Orleans.
Disclosure: The study was supported by the NIH, Harvard School of Public Health, Örebro University Strategic Funding, and the UK Economic and Social Research Council as grants to the International Centre for Life Course Studies.