National Cancer Institute
dccps logo
Risk Factor Monitoring & Methods
Cancer Control and Population Sciences

In this section:


Weight, Height & Related Measures

Body size and factors related to size are associated with the risk of some cancers. These factors include:

  • weight status, particularly obesity and weight gain;
  • body fat distribution;
  • body composition (the balance between lean and fat tissue); and
  • height.

The Risk Factor Monitoring and Methods Branch (RFMMB) is interested in body size measures for several reasons:

  • Obesity significantly increases the risk of a number of cancers, including colorectal, endometrial, post-menopausal breast, and renal cell cancers, and some types of esophageal cancer. The current prevalence of obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or greater, has reached epidemic proportions. In the United States, 33% of the population aged 20-74 years is classified as obese. In 1976-80, the prevalence of obesity was 15%.
  • Body composition and the distribution of body fat are related to the production of insulin, insulin-like growth factors, and the metabolism of sex hormones, which are associated with risk of some cancers.
  • The link between weight status and sex hormones suggests that weight gain during particular life stages may contribute to increased cancer risk. Proposed critical periods include adolescence, the child-bearing years, and menopause.

Last modified:
24 Jul 2007
Search | Contact Us | Accessibility | Privacy Policy  
DCCPS National Cancer Institute Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health The US government's official web portal