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Weight, Status in Adolescence May Up Cancer Risk

Update Date: Oct 14, 2013 04:55 PM EDT

Overweight teens are twice as likely to develop esophageal cancer compared to their normal weight counterparts, a new study suggests.

The study also found that lower socioeconomic status and immigration from higher risk countries were important determinants of gastric cancer.

The latest study involved data from 1 million Israeli adolescent males who underwent a general health examination at an average age of 17 years from 1967 to 2005. The participants were followed from 2.5 to almost 40 years, with an average follow-up of 18.8 years.

The findings revealed that weight and socioeconomic status up to the age of 17 had a significantly impact upon cancer development later in life. Teens who were overweight had a 2.1 fold increased risk of developing intestinal type gastric cancer. However, those who had nine years or less of education had a 1.9-fold increased risk of developing intestinal type gastric cancer.

The study also revealed that immigrants born in Asia and in former USSR countries were 3.0 and 2.8 times more likely to develop gastric cancer.

"Adolescents who are overweight and obese are prone to esophageal cancer, probably due to reflux that they have throughout their life. Also, a lower socioeconomic position as a child has a lot of impact upon incidence of gastric cancer as an adult," lead researcher Zohar Levi, MD, MHA, of the Rabin Medical Center in Israel said in a news release. "We look at obesity as dangerous from cardiovascular aspects at ages 40 and over, but here we can see that it has effects much earlier." He noted that it is unclear whether losing weight later in life or gaining higher socioeconomic status might reduce the risks observed in this study.

The findings are published in the journal Cancer.

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