Measured body mass index in adolescence and the incidence of colorectal cancer in a cohort of 1.1 million males

Zohar Levi, Jeremy D. Kark, Micha Barchana, Irena Liphshitz, Ofir Zavdi, Dorit Tzur, Estela Derazne, Moshe Furman, Yaron Niv, Barak Gordon, Arnon Afek, Ari Shamiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: The increasing prevalence of adolescent obesity affects adult health. We investigated the association of adolescent overweight with colorectal cancer incidence in a large cohort of males. Methods: Body mass index (BMI) was measured in 1.1 million Jewish Israeli males who underwent a general health examination at ages 16 to 19 between 1967 and 2005. Overweight was defined as BMI ≥85th percentile of the standard U.S. distribution in adolescence. Colorectal cancer was identified by linkage with the Israel National Cancer Registry up to 2006. The mean follow-up period was 17.6 ± 10.9 years, reflecting 19.5 million person-years. Cox proportional hazards modeling was used. Results: The prevalence of adolescent overweight increased from 9.9% to 16.8% in the first 10 and last 10 annual examination cohorts. Colon (n = 445) and rectal cancer (n = 193) cases were detected. Overweight predicted an increased risk of colon cancer [HR = 1.53; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.17-2.02, P = 0.002] but not of rectal cancer (HR = 1.09; 95% CI, 0.38-1.73, P = 0.72). The risk was greatest for nonmucinous adenocarcinoma of the colon (HR = 1.68, 95% CI, 1.26-2.23, P = 0.001). The association of BMI ≥ 85th percentile with colon cancer was even more pronounced in analyses that were restricted to men followed until at least 40 years of age [N = 367,478; HR = 1.75 (95% CI, 1.33-2.3, P < 0.001)]. Conclusions: Adolescent overweight is substantially associated with colon cancer incidence in young to middle-aged adults. Impact: These long-term sequelae add to the urgency to seriously address increasing childhood and adolescent obesity with its attendant increasing population impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2524-2531
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


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