Teenagers who are overweight or obese, as well as those who are taller than average for their age, appear to be at an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), according to new research published in the journal Cancer.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a heterogeneous group of neoplasms composed of several histologic subtypes that collectively constitute the 10th most common cancer worldwide, and the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. NHL rates have increased worldwide, with studies suggesting that the rising rates of obesity may be contributing to this trend.
To examine the association between the body mass index (BMI) and height of adolescents with NHL subtypes, Merav Leiba, MD, of the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and colleagues used health-related data on 2,352,988 adolescents, ages 16 to 19, examined between 1967 and 2011. Findings were then linked to the Israel National Cancer Registry to derive the NHL incidence up to Dec. 31, 2012 (4,021 cases).
Results of the study, “Adolescent Weight and Height Are Predictors of Specific Non Hodgkin Lymphoma Subtypes Among a Cohort of 2,352,988 Individuals Aged 16 to 19 Years,” revealed that adolescents who were overweight and obese were associated with a 25 percent increased risk for NHL when compared to those of normal weight. With height, a graded association with NHL was found: shorter adolescents showed a 25 percent decreased risk of NHL, while the tallest had a 28 percent increased risk compared to those classified as mid-range height. Excess height and weight were responsible for 6 percent and 3 percent of all NHL cases, respectively.
Marginal zone lymphoma, primary cutaneous lymphoma (PCL), and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) showed the strongest associations for excess weight and obesity, and DLBCL and PCL showed the strongest associations for height. The researches speculate that height and excess nutrition in childhood affect inflammatory molecules and growth factors that might support the development of NHL.
“Obesity and overweight during adolescence are risk factors for future Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma,” Dr. Leiba said in a news release. “It is important to be aware that overweight and obesity are not risk factors only for diabetes and cardiovascular disease but also for lymphomas.”
According to the researchers, further studies are needed to elucidate the biological mechanisms through which weight and height in adolescence influence the future risk of developing NHL subtypes.
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