Weight cycling and cancer incidence in a large prospective US cohort

Victoria L. Stevens, Eric J. Jacobs, Alpa V. Patel, Juzhong Sun, Marjorie L. McCullough, Peter T. Campbell, Susan M. Gapstur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Weight cycling, which consists of repeated cycles of intentional weight loss and regain, is common among individuals who try to lose weight. Some evidence suggests that weight cycling may affect biological processes that could contribute to carcinogenesis, but whether it is associated with cancer risk is unclear. Using 62,792 men and 69,520 women enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort in 1992, we examined the association between weight cycling and cancer incidence. Weight cycles were defined by using baseline questions that asked the number of times ≥10 pounds (4.54 kg) was purposely lost and later regained. Multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for all cancer and 15 individual cancers were estimated by using Cox proportional hazards regression. During up to 17 years of follow-up, 15,333 men and 9,984 women developed cancer. Weight cycling was not associated with overall risk of cancer in men (hazard ratio = 0.96, 95% confidence interval: 0.83, 1.11 for ≥20 cycles vs. no weight cycles) or women (hazard ratio = 0.96, 95% confidence interval: 0.86, 1.08) in models that adjusted for body mass index and other covariates. Weight cycling was also not associated with any individual cancer investigated. These results suggest that weight cycling, independent of body weight, is unlikely to influence subsequent cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-404
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • body weight changes
  • cancer risk
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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