Obesity: impact on Colorectal Carcinoma

  • Maria Leonor Táboas Simões Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto
  • Laura E. Barbosa Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto


Introduction: The increasing prevalence of obesity is a serious public health problem which is associated with an increased risk of many diseases that result in great morbidity and mortality. Some cancers seem to be among these, one of these being colorectal carcinoma (CRC). The aim of this study is to evaluate the impact of obesity as a risk factor for CRC and to discuss the mechanisms that may establish a link between this cancer and obesity. Methods: A research was conducted in PubMed database, limited to ten years, with the articles considered to be relevant being selected after reading the title and abstract. Results: There is a statistically significant positive association between CRC and obesity, with the risk being higher for males and for colon compared with the rectum, for most studies. In spite of body mass index (BMI) being the most widely used measure for obesity estimation in studies in the CRC area, it was found an increased risk of this neoplasm when using measurements of visceral obesity, such as waist circumference or waist-hip ratio, compared to BMI, reflecting the importance of body fat distribution in this association. The most inconsistent results were observed for the risk of rectal cancer in females. In what concerns the association comparing between proximal and distal colon and the effect of a weight change during adulthood in the risk of colon carcinoma, the evidence is still limited and discordant. Conclusions: Although the mechanisms that underlie the observed association between obesity and CRC are not yet fully understood, some hypothesis have been proposed, focusing primarily on metabolic and hormonal activity of visceral adiposity. This study highlights the importance of obesity as a risk factor for CRC, reinforcing the importance of the weight control and the avoidance of excess body fat accumulation. New research approaches may become more relevant in the future and may help to clarify some issues for which the evidence is still limited.


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Author Biographies

Maria Leonor Táboas Simões, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto

Licenciada em Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto

Serviço de Cirurgia Geral

Laura E. Barbosa, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto

Mestre, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto

Serviço de Cirurgia Geral


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How to Cite
SIMÕES, Maria Leonor Táboas; BARBOSA, Laura E.. Obesity: impact on Colorectal Carcinoma. Revista Portuguesa de Cirurgia, [S.l.], n. 42, p. 17 - 32, sep. 2017. ISSN 2183-1165. Available at: <https://revista.spcir.com/index.php/spcir/article/view/679>. Date accessed: 03 oct. 2023.
Original Papers