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J Clin Oncol. 2016 Dec 10;34(35):4277-4283. Epub 2016 Nov 7.

Obesity and Cancer Mechanisms: Cancer Metabolism.

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All authors: Meyer Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY.


Obesity is a risk factor for cancer development and is associated with poor prognosis in multiple tumor types. The positive energy balance linked with obesity induces a variety of systemic changes including altered levels of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, leptin, adiponectin, steroid hormones, and cytokines. Each of these factors alters the nutritional milieu and has the potential to create an environment that favors tumor initiation and progression. Although the complete ramifications of obesity as it relates to cancer are still unclear, there is convincing evidence that reducing the magnitude of the systemic hormonal and inflammatory changes has significant clinical benefits. This review will examine the changes that occur in the obese state and review the biologic mechanisms that connect these changes to increased cancer risk. Understanding the metabolic changes that occur in obese individuals may also help to elucidate more effective treatment options for these patients when they develop cancer. Moving forward, targeted clinical trials examining the effects of behavioral modifications such as reduced carbohydrate intake, caloric restriction, structured exercise, and/or pharmacologic interventions such as the use of metformin, in obese populations may help to reduce their cancer risk.

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