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Epidemiology and Population Health

Change in weight status from childhood to early adulthood and late adulthood risk of colon cancer in men: a population-based cohort study



Although weight gain in mid- to late adult life is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, it is unclear if increases or losses in weight from childhood to early adulthood are differentially associated with risks of adult colon cancer.


Weight and height were measured at 7 or 13 years and in early adulthood (17–26 years) in 64,675 boys in the Copenhagen School Health Records Register and the Danish Conscription Database. Cases of colon cancer (n = 751) were identified in the Danish Cancer Registry. Boys and young men were categorized as normal weight or overweight. Associations between changes in weight and colon cancer were examined using Cox proportional hazards regression to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


Compared with men with a normal weight at 7 years and in early adulthood, men with overweight at both ages had an increased risk of adult colon cancer (HR: 2.73, 95% CI 1.80–4.15). In contrast, men with overweight at 7 years, but not in early adulthood did not have an increased risk of colon cancer (HR: 0.73, 95% CI 0.35–1.54), nor did men with a normal weight at 7 years and overweight in early adulthood (HR: 1.28, 95% CI 0.96–1.70). Similar results were observed for weight status at age 13 years combined with early adulthood.


Childhood overweight that persists into early adulthood is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, whereas overweight that disappears before early adulthood or developed after childhood is not.

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The CSHRR was established by the former Institute of Preventive Medicine (now the Center for Clinical Research and Prevention). It was built in collaboration with the Copenhagen City Archives in Denmark. The authors thank Kaare Christensen, Drude Molbo and Erik L. Mortensen, who together with MOand TIAS established the Danish Conscription Database.


This work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) [ERC Grant Agreement no. 281419 to JLB]; the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF) [FSS Grant Agreement no. 1331-00218 to JLB] and Dagmar Marshals Fond [to BWJ].

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Baker.

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Jensen, B.W., Bjerregaard, L.G., Ängquist, L. et al. Change in weight status from childhood to early adulthood and late adulthood risk of colon cancer in men: a population-based cohort study. Int J Obes 42, 1797–1803 (2018).

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