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Obesity and excess weight in early adulthood and high risks of arsenic-related cancer in later life



Elevated body mass index (BMI) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Inflammation or oxidative stress induced by high BMI may explain some of these effects. Millions of people drink arsenic-contaminated water worldwide, and ingested arsenic has also been associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, and cancer.


To assess the unique situation of people living in northern Chile exposed to high arsenic concentrations in drinking water and investigate interactions between arsenic and BMI, and associations with lung and bladder cancer risks.


Information on self-reported body mass index (BMI) at various life stages, smoking, diet, and lifetime arsenic exposure was collected from 532 cancer cases and 634 population-based controls.


In subjects with BMIs <90th percentile in early adulthood (27.7 and 28.6 kg/m(2) in males and females, respectively), odds ratios (OR) for lung and bladder cancer combined for arsenic concentrations of <100, 100-800 and >800 µg/L were 1.00, 1.64 (95% CI, 1.19-2.27), and 3.12 (2.30-4.22). In subjects with BMIs ≥90th percentile in early adulthood, the corresponding ORs were higher: 1.00, 1.84 (0.75-4.52), and 9.37 (2.88-30.53), respectively (synergy index=4.05, 95% CI, 1.27-12.88). Arsenic-related cancer ORs >20 were seen in those with elevated BMIs in both early adulthood and in later life. Adjustments for smoking, diet, and other factors had little impact.


These findings provide novel preliminary evidence supporting the notion that environmentally-related cancer risks may be markedly increased in people with elevated BMIs, especially in those with an elevated BMI in early-life.

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