Metabolic Syndrome and Risk of Cancer

A systematic review and meta-analysis

  1. Dario Giugliano, MD, PHD5
  1. 1Department of Cardio-Thoracic and Respiratory Sciences, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy
  2. 2Department of Medicine and Public Health, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy
  3. 3Section of Endocrinology, Department of Molecular and Clinical Endocrinology and Oncology, University of Naples “Federico II,” Naples, Italy
  4. 4Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Rome “La Sapienza,” Rome, Italy
  5. 5Department of Geriatrics and Metabolic Diseases, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy
  1. Corresponding author: Dario Giugliano, dario.giugliano{at}


OBJECTIVE Available evidence supports the emerging hypothesis that metabolic syndrome may be associated with the risk of some common cancers. We did a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between metabolic syndrome and risk of cancer at different sites.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We conducted an electronic search for articles published through October 2011 without restrictions and by reviewing reference lists from retrieved articles. Every included study was to report risk estimates with 95% CIs for the association between metabolic syndrome and cancer.

RESULTS We analyzed 116 datasets from 43 articles, including 38,940 cases of cancer. In cohort studies in men, the presence of metabolic syndrome was associated with liver (relative risk 1.43, P < 0.0001), colorectal (1.25, P < 0.001), and bladder cancer (1.10, P = 0.013). In cohort studies in women, the presence of metabolic syndrome was associated with endometrial (1.61, P = 0.001), pancreatic (1.58, P < 0.0001), breast postmenopausal (1.56, P = 0.017), rectal (1.52, P = 0.005), and colorectal (1.34, P = 0.006) cancers. Associations with metabolic syndrome were stronger in women than in men for pancreatic (P = 0.01) and rectal (P = 0.01) cancers. Associations were different between ethnic groups: we recorded stronger associations in Asia populations for liver cancer (P = 0.002), in European populations for colorectal cancer in women (P = 0.004), and in U.S. populations (whites) for prostate cancer (P = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS Metabolic syndrome is associated with increased risk of common cancers; for some cancers, the risk differs betweens sexes, populations, and definitions of metabolic syndrome.


  • Received February 16, 2012.
  • Accepted May 6, 2012.

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