Obesity has consistently been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, particularly among men. Whether body mass index (BMI) differentially influences the risk across the stages of colorectal cancer development remains unclear. We evaluated the associations of BMI with colorectal adenoma incidence, adenoma recurrence, and cancer in the context of a large screening trial, in which cases and controls had an equal chance for disease detection.
We prospectively evaluated the association between baseline BMI and the risk of incident distal adenoma (1,213 cases), recurrent adenoma (752 cases), and incident colorectal cancer (966 cases) among men and women, ages 55 to 74 years, randomly assigned to receive flexible sigmoidoscopy screening as part of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CIs for adenoma incidence and recurrence, and hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for colorectal cancer incidence, using multivariable-adjusted models.
Compared with normal-weight men (18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2), obese men (≥ 30 kg/m2) had significantly higher risk of incident adenoma (OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.06 to 1.65) and colorectal cancer (HR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.16 to 1.89) and a borderline increased risk of recurrent adenoma (OR, 1.50; 95% CI, 0.98 to 2.30). No associations were observed for either adenoma or cancer in women.
Data from this large prospective study suggest that obesity is important throughout the natural history of colorectal cancer, at least in men, and colorectal cancer prevention efforts should encourage the achievement and maintenance of a healthy body weight in addition to regular screenings.