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Although earlier studies have suggested that overweight children run a higher risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer as adults, it had been less clear what effect weight loss might have on this risk.
"These results highlight the importance of weight management in childhood," Britt Wang Jensen, of Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, and colleagues reported.
Excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third leading cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be detected in 2017, the cancer society added.
In the new study, the researchers examined the health records of more than 61,000 males in Denmark born between 1939 and 1959. During an average 25 years of follow-up, more than 700 of them developed colon cancer as adults.
Men who had been overweight at age 7 and were still overweight as young adults had twice the risk of colon cancer compared to those who always had a healthy weight. However, men who were overweight in childhood but had a healthy weight as young adults did not have an increased risk of colon cancer, the findings showed.
However, the study did not prove that being overweight caused colon cancer risk to rise.
The study was scheduled for presentation Friday at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Our next steps are to expand our focus and examine other forms of cancer along with other non-communicable diseases to create a full picture of how a man's weight development across his life, even from birth, is associated with his risk of disease," the study authors added in a news release from the meeting.
-- Robert Preidt
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