BACKGROUND: Studies of obesity with or without metabolic aberrations, commonly termed metabolically unhealthy or healthy obesity, in relation to cancer risk are scarce.

METHODS: We investigated body mass index (BMI, normal weight/overweight/obesity) jointly and in interaction with metabolic health status in relation to obesity-related cancer risk (n = 23,630) among 797,193 European individuals. A metabolic score comprising mid-blood pressure, plasma glucose and triglycerides was used to define metabolically healthy and unhealthy status. Hazard ratios (HRs) and multiplicative interactions were assessed using Cox regression, and additive interactions were assessed using the relative excess risk for interaction. All statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS: Metabolically unhealthy obesity, with a baseline prevalence of 7%, was, compared to metabolically healthy normal weight, associated with an increased relative risk of any obesity-related cancer and of colon, rectal, pancreas, endometrial, liver, gallbladder, and renal cell cancer (p < 0.05), with the highest risk estimates for endometrial, liver, and renal cell cancer (HRs, 2.55 to 3.00). Metabolically healthy obesity showed a higher relative risk for any obesity-related cancer and colon (in men), endometrial, renal cell, liver, and gallbladder cancer, though the risk relationships were weaker. There were no multiplicative interactions, but there were additive, positive interactions between BMI and metabolic health status on obesity-related and rectal cancer among men, and on endometrial cancer (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights that the type of metabolic obesity phenotype is important when assessing obesity-related cancer risk. In general, metabolic aberrations further increased the obesity-induced cancer risk, suggesting that both obesity and metabolic aberrations are useful targets for prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-467
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number4
Early online date2023 Jan 17
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology


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