IMR Press / FBE / Volume 5 / Issue 1 / DOI: 10.2741/E596

Frontiers in Bioscience-Elite (FBE) is published by IMR Press from Volume 13 Issue 2 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.


Obesity and colorectal cancer

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1 Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition, DifE, Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Nuthetal, Germany
2 Molecular Epidemiology Group, Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch, Germany

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Front. Biosci. (Elite Ed) 2013, 5(1), 61–77;
Published: 1 January 2013

This review outlines the association of obesity with risk of colorectal cancer and the potential underlying mechanisms from an epidemiological perspective. Current research indicates that there is a moderate but consistently reported association between general obesity (as determined by BMI) and colorectal cancer incidence and mortality. The relative risk associated with obesity is higher for cancer of the colon than for cancer of the rectum and it is higher in men than in women. By contrast, abdominal adiposity (as determined by waist circumference or waistto-hip ratio) is similarly strongly associated with colon cancer in men and women, suggesting that abdominal adiposity is a more important risk factor for colon cancer than general adiposity, at least in women. Putative mechanisms that may account for the link between adiposity and colorectal cancer risk include hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, inflammation, altered immune response, oxidative stress, as well as disturbances in insulin-like growth factors, adipokines, and sex steroids. Understanding the link between obesity and colorectal cancer may pave the way for targeted prevention of colorectal cancer morbidity and mortality.

Colorectal cancer
Body mass index
Abdominal adiposity
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