Cancer

23 May 2017

Overweight boys have higher colon cancer risk as adults

According to new research, losing weight might lower the risk of overweight boys developing colon (colorectal) cancer later in life.

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Being overweight as a baby increases the risk of being overweight as a child, which in turn increases the risk of being overweight as an adolescent and adult, according to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.

Unfortunately, childhood obesity is not prevented, detected or treated sufficiently.

Overweight boys may be more likely to develop colon (colorectal) cancer later in life, but losing weight might lower that risk, Danish researchers say.

Although earlier studies have suggested that overweight children run a higher risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer as adults, it had been less clear what effect weight loss might have on this risk.

Importance of weight management in childhood

"These results highlight the importance of weight management in childhood," Britt Wang Jensen, of Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, and colleagues reported.

Excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third leading cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 95 000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 40 000 new cases of rectal cancer will be detected in 2017, the cancer society added.

In South Africa a total of 1 838 cases of colon cancer in males was reported (in 2012). Nearly 53% of these reported cases were men between the ages of 55 and 74 years, according to the National Cancer Registry (NRC).

In the new study, the researchers examined the health records of more than 61 000 males in Denmark born between 1939 and 1959. During an average 25 years of follow-up, more than 700 of them developed colon cancer as adults.

Creating a full picture

Men who had been overweight at age seven and were still overweight as young adults had twice the risk of colon cancer compared to those who always had a healthy weight. However, men who were overweight in childhood but had a healthy weight as young adults did not have an increased risk of colon cancer, the findings showed.

However, the study did not prove that being overweight caused colon cancer risk to rise.

"Our next steps are to expand our focus and examine other forms of cancer along with other non-communicable diseases to create a full picture of how a man's weight development across his life, even from birth, is associated with his risk of disease," the study authors added in a news release from the meeting.

Read more:

Colon cancer advances faster in men

Overweight linked to even more kinds of cancer

Six ways to reduce your risk of colon cancer

 

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

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