Background: Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death and illness in developed countries. Previous reviews have suggested that obesity may be associated with 30% to 60% greater risk of colorectal cancer, but little consideration was given to the possible effect of publication bias on the reported association. Methods: Relevant studies were identified through EMBASE and MEDLINE. Studies were included if they had published quantitative estimates of the association between general obesity [defined here as body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2] and central obesity (measured using waist circumference) and colorectal cancer. Random-effects meta-analyses were done, involving 70,000 cases of incident colorectal cancer from 31 studies, of which 23 were cohort studies and 8 were case-control studies. Results: After pooling and correcting for publication bias, the estimated relative risk of colorectal cancer was 1.19 [95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.11-1.29], comparing obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) with normal weight (BMI <25 kg/m2) people; and 1.45 (95% CI, 1.31-1.61), comparing those with the highest, to the lowest, level of central obesity. After correcting for publication bias, the risk of colorectal cancer was 1.41 (95% CI, 1.30-1.54) in men compared with 1.08 (95% CI, 0.98-1.18) for women (Pheterogeneity <0.001). There was evidence of a dose-response relationship between BMI and colorectal cancer: for a 2 kg/m2 increase in BMI, the risk of colorectal cancer increased by 7% (4-10%). For a 2-cm increase in waist circumference, the risk increased by 4% (2-5%). Conclusions: Obesity has a direct and independent relationship with colorectal cancer, although the strength of the association with general obesity is smaller than previously reported.
ASJC Scopus subject areas