August 26, 2015
2 min read

Obesity in early adulthood increases risk for HCC

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In a new study, researchers found that people who were obese in early adulthood had an increased risk for developing hepatocellular carcinoma later on, according to published findings.

“To investigate the association between [hepatocellular carcinoma] and obesity before [hepatocellular carcinoma] development, we embarked on a large case-control study in which we integrated clinical and epidemiologic data with obesity data to assess … the independent effect of excess body weight across an individual’s life cycle on [hepatocellular carcinoma] risk, the synergistic interaction between obesity and other [hepatocellular carcinoma] risk factors and the effect of obesity on age at [hepatocellular carcinoma] onset or on overall survival rate of [hepatocellular carcinoma] patients,” the researchers wrote.

In this hospital-based study, researchers interviewed 622 patients with newly diagnosed HCC between January 2004 and December 2013 and compared them with 600 healthy controls. All patients’ measurements, such as weight, height and body sizes at various ages before HCC development or enrollment in the study, were recorded and used in multivariable and Cox regression analyses to find independent effects of obesity on HCC development.

In patients who had obesity between their mid-20s and mid-40s, this was a significant risk factor for HCC. The estimated odds ratios (OR) for the entire population of patients was 2.6 (95% CI, 1.4-4.4); 2.3 (95% CI, 1.2-4.4) among men only and 3.6 (95% CI, 1.5-8.9) for women only.

Experiencing obesity ever in their lifetimes was reported by 38.4% of patients with HCC and 30.6% of the controls. The prevalence of obesity in mid-20s to mid-40s was greater in the patients with HCC vs. the controls (P = .002). More patients with HCC reported being overweight in their mid-20s compared with the controls (21.8% vs. 18.7%).

In early adulthood, every time a unit was added to BMI, leading to an increase, this was associated with a 3.89-month decrease in age at HCC diagnosis (P < .001).

In addition, a synergistic interaction was observed between obesity and hepatitis virus infection. Researchers did not observe an effect of obesity on the overall survival of patients with HCC.

“A prior history of obesity in the mid-20s, mid-30s and mid-40s was associated significantly with an increased HCC risk in the whole study population and in the absence of major HCC risk factors,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers concluded: “This study provides robust epidemiologic evidence to support the association between obese adults in their mid-20s to mid-40s and risk of HCC in American men and women, with obese subjects more susceptible than non-obese subjects to early onset HCC,” the researchers concluded. “Educational interventions and public awareness may be key to reducing the incidence of obesity at a young age. Behavioral modification, including abstaining from alcohol and restricting diet, especially among patients with chronic viral infection, may reduce the incidence of end-stage [chronic liver diseases].” – by Melinda Stevens

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.