May 25, 2018
2 min read

Significant weight gain during puberty tied to colon cancer in men

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Overweight boys who had an above-average increase in BMI during puberty showed a higher risk for developing colon cancer in adulthood, according to new research presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

In contrast, overweight boys without an above-average increase in BMI during puberty did not appear to show an increased risk for colon cancer as adults.

“Our results show that BMI throughout childhood and adolescence may play a role in the risk of colon cancer in later life,” investigators from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said in a press release. “Specifically, men who are overweight or obese as boys with above average weight gain during puberty are at higher risk of developing colon cancer. More research is needed to discover whether losing weight in adulthood could lower the risk.”

To evaluate the impact of childhood BMI and change in BMI during puberty on later colorectal cancer risk, researchers performed a population-based study of 37,663 Swedish men with childhood BMI data available, who were born between 1945 and 1961 and followed through 2013. They calculated BMI change during puberty by subtracting BMI at age 8 from BMI at age 20.

National registry data showed 257 participants developed colon cancer and 159 developed rectal cancer.

The investigators found an association between childhood BMI at age 8 years and risk for colon cancer diagnosis (HR = 1.19 per standard deviation; 95% CI, 1.06–1.33). However, they did not find that a change in BMI during puberty was directly associated with colon cancer risk. Rather, they observed a “significant interaction” between childhood BMI and change in BMI during puberty regarding later colon cancer risk (P < .001).

Therefore, they stratified the study population by median BMI change during puberty, and observed that childhood BMI was independently associated with colon cancer risk only in those who had a change in BMI above the median during puberty (HR = 1.48 per SD; 95% CI, 1.26–1.74). Neither childhood BMI nor change in BMI during puberty correlated with rectal cancer risk.

The investigators noted they cannot draw firm conclusions about causality due to the study’s observational design. Other limitations included that the study primarily involved white men, that accounting for factors like BMI at older age, exercise, and diet were not possible, and that childhood BMI data for women were not available.

The authors concluded that overweight boys with a higher than median change in BMI during puberty carry a 48% higher risk for colon cancer in adulthood (1.6% vs 0.7% in normal weight individuals). – by Adam Leitenberger


Célind J, et al. Abstract O11.6. Presented at: European Congress on Obesity; May 23-26, 2018, Vienna, Austria.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.