New study: children of overweight mothers get cancer faster and more often

New study: children of overweight mothers get cancer faster and more often

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Childhood cancer risk from obese mothers?

Researchers have now found that children born to obese mothers are more likely to develop cancer in early childhood.

The University of Pittsburgh's recent investigation found that children born to obese mothers were at increased risk of developing cancer in early childhood. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "American Journal of Epidemiology".

Mothers-to-be affects the risk of cancer in children

Using analysis of Pennsylvania birth records, the researchers found a correlation between the body mass index (BMI) in mothers before pregnancy and subsequent cancer diagnosis in their offspring, even after taking known risk factors such as the size of the newborn and the age of the mother into account were. Not many preventable risk factors for cancer in children are currently known, the study authors report. In their opinion, the study results should motivate weight loss.

57 percent higher risk of leukemia found

Almost two million birth certificates and approximately 3,000 cancer registry records from the state of Pennsylvania were evaluated for the study. The researchers found that children born to heavily obese mothers (BMI over 40) were 57 percent more likely to develop leukemia under the age of five.

Possible causes of the increased risk

Further analysis showed that taller women gave birth to larger babies, and women with a higher weight tended to be older, which are known risk factors for cancer in children. The researchers suspect that the cause of the increased risk of childhood cancer in overweight pregnant women has to do with the insulin level in the mother's body during fetal development - or possibly with changes in the mother's DNA expression that is passed on to her offspring.

Even slight weight loss significantly reduced the risk

It is important that not all levels of obesity lead to the same cancer risk for children, the authors report. Among the obese women in the study, a higher BMI was associated with a higher cancer rate in their children. Even a small weight loss can contribute to a real reduction in risk. Unfortunately, there is a true obesity epidemic in many countries today, and more and more people are developing obesity and obesity. From a preventive perspective, maintaining a healthy weight is not only important for the mothers themselves, but also for their children. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Shaina L Stacy, Jeanine M Buchanich, Zhen-qiang Ma, Christina Mair, Linda Robertson et al .: Maternal Obesity, Birth Size, and Risk of Childhood Cancer Development, in American Journal of Epidemiology (query: July 11, 2019), American Journal of Epidemiology

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