Intentional weight loss and obesity-related cancer risk

Juhua Luo, Michael Hendryx, Jo Ann E. Manson, Jane C. Figueiredo, Erin S. LeBlanc, Wendy Barrington, Thomas E. Rohan, Barbara V. Howard, Kerryn Reding, Gloria Y.F. Ho, David O. Garcia, Rowan T. Chlebowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Background: Epidemiologic studies regarding weight loss and subsequent cancer risk are sparse. The study aim was to evaluate the association between weight change by intentionality and obesity-related cancer incidence in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Eleven cancers were considered obesity related: breast, ovary, endometrium, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, liver, multiple myeloma, pancreas, stomach, and thyroid. Methods: Postmenopausal women (n = 58 667) aged 50-79 years had body weight and waist circumference (WC) measured at baseline and year 3. Weight or WC change was categorized as stable (change < ±5%), loss (≥5%), and gain (≥5%). Self-report at year 3 characterized weight loss as intentional or unintentional. During the subsequent 12 years (mean) of follow-up, 6033 incident obesity-related cancers were identified. Relationships were evaluated using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models. Results: Compared to women with stable weight, women with intentional weight loss had lower obesity-related cancer risk (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.88, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.80 to 0.98). A similar result was observed for intentional WC reduction (HR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.80 to 0.96). Among all cancers, intentional weight loss was most strongly associated with endometrial cancer (HR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.42 to 0.88). Intentional WC loss was also associated with lower colorectal cancer risk (HR = 0.79, 95% CI = 0.63 to 0.99). Unintentional weight loss or weight gain was not associated with overall obesity-related cancer risk. Conclusion: Intentional weight or WC loss in postmenopausal women was associated with lower risk of obesity-related cancer. These findings suggest that postmenopausal women who intentionally lose weight can reduce their obesity-related cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpkz054
JournalJNCI Cancer Spectrum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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