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Body and adipose tissue composition and risk of obesity-related cancers

Body and adipose tissue composition and risk of obesity-related cancers

Principal Investigator: Dr Thomas Rohan
Approved Research ID: 70902
Approval date: March 31st 2021

Lay summary

The aim of the study is to examine the association between adipose tissue composition and the risk of obesity-related cancers. Obesity has been related to risk of several types of cancer. Body mass index (BMI) has been used as surrogate measurement of body fat to estimate obesity-related risk of several types of cancer such as those of the colorectum, liver, pancreas, ovary, endometrium and postmenopausal breast.

However, although BMI correlates with adipose tissue mass, it cannot distinguish between lean muscle and fat volume. A growing body of evidence has indicated that adipose tissue, and in particular excessive abdominal fat, affects several metabolic mechanisms and promotes tumorigenesis in the overweight and obese. Visceral fat is more strongly correlated with metabolic changes that are associated with an increased risk of some obesity-related types of cancer. It is unclear, however, whether adipose tissue composition contributes to obesity-related cancer risk. New methodologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), provide measures of different types of adipose tissue depots in the body. MRI is costly and not easily available in the clinical setting.

This highlights the importance of ongoing UK Biobank multi-modal imaging study, which is the world's largest study of this kind, designed with the purpose of collecting MRI data from 100,000 individuals already enrolled in the UK Biobank. We propose to use all MRI data on adipose tissue, with a focus on the variables representing fat composition in the abdominal region, already available or that will be collected by the study, and to relate these measures to risk of obesity-related cancer occurrence. We will also take into account other relevant factors, using the extensive information on demographic, medical and lifestyle risk factors available in the UK Biobank study.

The results will provide a unique contribution to the knowledge on the obesity-cancer risk relationship and may help to improve strategies to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.