Childhood Obesity and Cancer

Dr. Greene’s take on childhood obesity and cancer…

The heavier kids are during the toddler, preschool, and school years, the greatest the chance they have of developing cancer as young adults, according to a study published in the November 1, 2004 International Journal of Cancer. Researchers in the Boyd Orr Study of Diet and Health in Pre-War Britain measured the heights and weights of more than 2,000 children between the ages of 2 and 14 during 1937-1939. These children were then followed for 50 years, into their 50.s and 60.s – the longest follow-up we have for study like this.

A total of 380 of the people developed cancer (188 men and 192 women). Those who developed cancer were more likely to have been obese as children. Body mass index (BMI), calculated from the heights and weights, is the best measure of obesity. For every standard deviation increase in BMI in the children, there was a 9 percent increase in cancer risk, after accounting for other factors. For smoking related cancers, the risk increased 30 percent for every standard deviation increase in BMI.

Right now, we are raising the most obese, the most sedentary generation in history. Unless cancer risks change dramatically, we are heading for an unprecedented cancer epidemic in the years ahead. Taking action to prevent or reverse obesity in your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a parent.

Published on: October 26, 2004
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.