Evidence indicates that gaining weight in adult life is associated with an elevated risk of colorectal cancer; however, biological mechanisms that may explain this association remain unclear. We evaluated the mediation effect of 20 different biomarkers on the relationship between adult weight gain and colorectal cancer, using data from a prospective nested case-control study of 452 incident cases diagnosed between 1992 and 2003 and matched within risk sets to 452 controls within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. The proportions of mediated effects (%) were estimated on the basis of differences in percent effect changes in conditional logistic regression models with and without additional adjustment for individual biomarkers. Greater adult weight gain (≥300 g/year vs. <300 g/year) was associated with a higher risk of colon cancer (multivariable-adjusted relative risk = 1.54, 95% confidence interval: 1.07, 2.24) but not rectal cancer (relative risk = 1.07, 95% confidence interval: 0.68, 1.66). This association was accounted for mostly by attained waist circumference (reduction of 61%) and by the biomarkers soluble leptin receptor (reduction of 43%) and glycated hemoglobin (reduction of 28%). These novel data suggest that the observed association between adult weight gain and colon cancer could be primarily explained by attained abdominal fatness and biomarkers of metabolic dysfunction.
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