Teen obesity rockets midlife cancer risk by 25 percent

Boy, was I alarmed when I read a recent headline linking adolescent obesity to midlife cancer risk.

That’s partly because this news hits close to home: As you may recall, I was an obese child myself. (But I’m also past middle age now—so maybe I dodged a bullet.) But the fact is, everyone should be alarmed by this finding.

Childhood obesity is at an all-time high. Which means we aren’t just cheating our kids out of a healthy life… we’re also shortening the one they have.

The danger sets in before 30

This study followed more than two million Israeli teens from the age of 17 to see how body mass index (BMI) related to later cancer incidence.

Among those who went on to develop cancer, the average age of diagnosis was 43 in men and 40 in women. In the end, teen obesity raised this risk by 25 percent in men, and by 27 percent in women (after excluding breast and cervical cancers, which are associated with obesity after menopause, but not before).

What’s more, cancer rates rose gradually with BMI percentiles in both genders: An “overweight” BMI began to raise cancer risk after just a decade of follow-up, by 14 percent among men, and 22 percent among women (again, excluding cervical and breast cancers).

Which means that for overweight teens, the danger begins to escalate before they even hit 30!

Not just in the form of cancer diagnosis, either. Higher BMI was also associated with higher mortality risk—men and women who were obese teens also suffered significantly lower 5-year survival rates than their peers with adolescent BMIs in the 5th-49th percentiles.

A catastrophic trend

Clearly, these trends kick in early—and they appear to increase steadily over time. And considering how quickly adolescent obesity is skyrocketing nowadays, this could be nothing short of catastrophic.

We already know that obesity plays a direct role in more than a dozen different types of cancer. But as I’ve explained here before, cancer among younger people in particular has been rising fast.

And when you take into account the increases in severe obesity among children across the globe, it should be crystal clear by now that this is no coincidence.

Ultimately, this study’s authors projected that the overall increase in cancer risk for people with a history of teen obesity was between five and six percent. But because this data predates the obesity epidemic—the study started all the way back in 1967—the situation today is likely to be a whole lot worse than even these numbers would suggest.

And if this doesn’t convince you to tackle obesity early in life, than I really don’t know what will. I only wish I had data like this when I wrote my (now, sadly prescient) first book, Feed Your Kids Well.

Maybe then, more people would have listened.

P.S. To learn more about how to overcome the threats of childhood obesity and win the battle of the bulge, check out the October 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Cancer diagnoses in younger Americans reach a terrifying, all-time high”). Subscribers have access to this and all of my past content in the archives. Not yet a subscriber? All it takes is one click!


 “Adolescent Obesity Linked With Midlife Cancer Risk.” Medscape Medical News, 02/21/2020. (medscape.com/viewarticle/925552)