BACKGROUND: Adiposity, measured by body mass index, is implicated in carcinogenesis. While adult weight gain has diverse advantages over body mass index in measuring adiposity, systematic reviews on adult weight gain in relation to adiposity-related cancers are lacking.
METHODS: PubMed and Embase were searched through September 2014 for prospective observational studies investigating the relationship between adult weight gain and the risk of 10 adiposity-related cancers. Dose-response meta-analyses were performed using a random-effects model to estimate summary relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for each cancer type. All statistical tests were two-sided.
RESULTS: A total of 50 studies were included. For each 5kg increase in adult weight gain, the summary relative risk was 1.11 (95% CI = 1.08 to 1.13) for postmenopausal breast cancer among no- or low-hormone replacement therapy (HRT) users, 1.39 (95% CI = 1.29 to 1.49) and 1.09 (95% CI = 1.02 to 1.16) for postmenopausal endometrial cancer among HRT nonusers and users, respectively, 1.13 (95% CI = 1.03 to 1.23) for postmenopausal ovarian cancer among no or low HRT users, 1.09 (95% CI = 1.04 to 1.13) for colon cancer in men. The relative risk of kidney cancer comparing highest and lowest level of adult weight gain was 1.42 (95% CI = 1.11 to 1.81). Adult weight gain was unrelated to cancers of the breast (premenopausal women, postmenopausal HRT users), prostate, colon (women), pancreas, and thyroid. An increase in risk associated with adult weight gain for breast cancer was statistically significantly greater among postmenopausal women (P heterogeneity = .001) and HRT nonusers (P heterogeneity = .001); that for endometrial cancer was alike among HRT nonusers (P heterogeneity = .04).
CONCLUSIONS: Avoiding adult weight gain itself may confer protection against certain types of cancers, particularly among HRT nonusers.