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Adolescent obesity linked to higher pancreatic cancer risk in adulthood

People who are obese as adolescents have up to a four-fold increased risk of pancreatic cancer later in life

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 12 November 2018

Adolescent obesity is associated with up to a four-fold increased risk of pancreatic cancer later in life, a study* published in Cancer suggests.

Being overweight or just in the higher region of the “normal” weight range during adolescence may also increase pancreatic cancer risk in men a graded manner.

Researchers looked at data on 1,087,358 Israeli Jewish men and 707,212 Jewish women who underwent a compulsory physical examination between the ages of 16 and 19 years from 1967 to 2002. Pancreatic cancer incidence through 2012 was identified by linkage to the Israeli National Cancer Registry.

Over a median of 23.3 years of follow up, 551 new cases of pancreatic cancer cases were identified - 423 cancers among men and 128 cancers among women. Compared with normal weight (5th to <85th percentile), obesity (≥95th percentile) was associated with a 3.67-times higher cancer risk among men and a 4.07-times higher risk among women.

Among men, high-normal BMI (≥75th to <85th percentile) and overweight (85th to <95th percentile) were associated with 49% and 97% higher risks for cancer, respectively, compared with low-normal BMI (≥5th to <25th percentile).

Pancreatic cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, and studies have linked adult obesity with an increased risk for its occurrence. Zohar Levi, of Rabin Medical Center and Tel Aviv University in Israel said: “The overall population attributable fraction of pancreatic cancer due to adolescent overweight and obesity was 11% among this Israeli Jewish population.”


* Levi Z, et al. Adolescent overweight and obesity and the risk for pancreatic cancer among men and women: a nationwide study of 1.79 million Israeli adolescents. Cancer, published 12 November 2018

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