The growing challenge of obesity and cancer: an inflammatory issue


Stephen D. Hursting, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Nutritional Sciences, Dell Pediatric Research Institute, University of Texas at Austin, 1800 Barbara Jordan Blvd., Austin, TX 78723.


The prevalence of obesity, an established risk factor for many cancers, has risen steadily for the past several decades in the United States and in many parts of the world. This review synthesizes the evidence on key biological mechanisms underlying the obesity–cancer link, with particular emphasis on the impact of energy balance modulation, such as diet-induced obesity and calorie restriction, on growth factor signaling pathways and inflammatory processes. Particular attention is placed on the proinflammatory environment associated with the obese state, specifically highlighting the involvement of obesity-associated hormones/growth factors in crosstalk between macrophages, adipocytes, and epithelial cells in many cancers. Understanding the contribution of obesity to growth factor signaling and chronic inflammation provides mechanistic targets for disrupting the obesity–cancer link.