Table of Contents
ISRN Preventive Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 680536, 16 pages
Review Article

The Association between Obesity and Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies from 1985 to 2011

1School of Nursing, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, 3N25G, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3Z5
2Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1H 8M5

Received 10 January 2013; Accepted 10 February 2013

Academic Editors: C. R. González Bonilla, C. Grandjean, and F. Mawas

Copyright © 2013 M. Dobbins et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. Cancer and cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide. The purpose of this meta-analysis is to synthesize the evidence evaluating the association between obesity and 13 cancers shown previously to be significantly associated with obesity. Methods. Relevant papers from a previously conducted review were included in this paper. In addition, database searches of Medline and Embase identified studies published from the date of the search conducted for the previous review (January, 2007) until May, 2011. The reference lists of relevant studies and systematic reviews were screened to identify additional studies. Relevance assessment, quality assessment, and data extraction for each study were conducted by two reviewers independently. Meta-analysis was performed for men and women separately using DerSimonian and Laird’s random effects model. Results. A total of 98 studies conducted in 18 countries from 1985 to 2011 were included. Data extraction was completed on the 57 studies judged to be of strong and moderate methodological quality. Results illustrated that obese men were at higher risk for developing colon (Risk Ratio (RR), 1.57), renal (1.57), gallbladder (1.47), pancreatic (1.36), and malignant melanoma cancers (1.26). Obese women were at higher risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma (2.04), endometrial (1.85), gallbladder (1.82), renal (1.72), pancreatic (1.34), leukemia (1.32), postmenopausal breast (1.25), and colon cancers (1.19). Conclusions. The results of this meta-analysis illustrate a significant, positive, and, for some cancers, strong association between obesity and cancer incidence. Given that approximately 23% of Canadians are obese, a significant proportion of cancer in Canada could be avoided if obesity was eliminated or significantly reduced.