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Influence of obesity on the risk of developing colon cancer
  1. E E Frezza,
  2. M S Wachtel,
  3. M Chiriva-Internati
  1. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr E E Frezza
    Department of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, MOP Building, Suite 380, 3502 9th St, Lubbock, Texas 79415, USA; eldo.frezza{at}

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Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases. Thirty per cent of Americans are viewed as super obese; therefore, we need to find a solution. We already know about the diseases associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnoea, etc. Lately, there has been an increased interest in understanding if cancer is related to obesity. In this paper, we review the incidence of colon cancer and obesity.

Insulin is the best established biochemical mediator between obesity and colon cancer. Hyperinsulinaemia, such as occurs in type II diabetes, is important in the pathogenesis of colon cancer. All adipose tissue is not equal. Visceral abdominal fat has been identified as the essential fat depot for pathogenetic theories that relate obesity and colon cancer. The genders differ as regards to how the relationship between obesity and colon cancer has been evaluated. Obesity imposes a greater risk of colon cancer for men of all ages and for premenopausal women than it does for postmenopausal women. Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing colon cancer and the risk of death from colon cancer should it develop. We believe that a combination of waist circumference (WC) and body mass index (BMI) measurements is recommended to assess the obesity related risk of developing colon cancer. Radiographic assessments of visceral abdominal fat may eventually prove to be the best means of assessing a patient’s obesity related risk of developing colon cancer.

Although WC is better established as a measure of obesity than BMI, the evidence for colon cancer risk is not secure on this point; combining BMI and WC measurements would appear, at present, to be the wisest approach for colon cancer risk assessment. Doctors who wish to decrease their patients’ risk of dying of colon cancer should advise weight loss and exercise. Conversely, physicians …

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  • Conflict of interest: None declared.