Childhood obesity raises the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Now researchers have found it also raises the risk of several cancers in adults - by 50 percent.
Parents never used to worry about kids being a few pounds overweight. “Baby fat” was something they assumed kids would grow out of. But today childhood obesity has become a much more serious matter. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found a direct link between childhood obesity and an elevated risk of some cancers in adulthood.
What’s the risk?
Sadly, in this recent study, researchers found that children above the 84th percentile in body mass index (BMI) have a 50 percent higher risk of developing colorectal and urothelial cancers as adults than children of normal weight. (Urolethial cancers affect the bladder and urinary tract.)
An 18-year longitudinal study of 1.1 million males in the Israeli Defense Forces provided the data. Controlling for factors such as year of birth and education, they found “a clear link between BMI and those who were diagnosed with urothelial or colorectal cancers later in life.”
Dr. Ari Shamiss, one of the lead researchers, believes that further research will reveal connections between childhood obesity and a wide range of cancers. He’s currently researching the link between childhood obesity and pancreatic cancer.
"We need to examine the questions of whether obesity is a direct risk factor for cancer or a confounding factor for a genetic variation, for example," he says.
Can weight loss help?
A question that needs to be addressed is whether weight loss can make a significant difference in health outcome. The study compared children who were obese to those of normal weight, but it didn’t look at the effect adult weight loss could have on cancer risk.