What is the role of obesity and lifestyle in the etiology of colon cancer?

Updated: Apr 15, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Obesity and lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and sedentary habits have also been associated with increased risk for colorectal cancer. A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies found a modest but significant elevation of colorectal cancer risk in current smokers; risk was higher for men and for rectal cancers than colon cancers, and persisting in former smokers. [15]

In a large prospective study, Cho and colleagues reported that high alcohol consumption was associated with elevated risk for colorectal cancer, in individuals with a family history of the disease. The association was significant only for the highest alcohol intake category of 30 g or more daily; no significant linear trend was evident. In comparison with nondrinkers with no family history, individuals who consumed 30 g/d or more and who had a family history of colorectal cancer had a relative risk for colon cancer of 2.80. [16]

Current screening guidelines recommend that clinicians be aware of increased colorectal cancer risk in patients who smoke or are obese, but do not highlight the increased risk in patients with diabetes. A meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies identified diabetes as an independent risk factor for colon and rectal cancer. Subgroup analyses confirmed the consistency of the findings across study type and population. This information may have an impact on screening guidelines and on building risk models of colorectal cancer. [17]

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