Maternal obesity associated with a 57% cancer increase in children


Recently, a report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed a surprising risk factor associated with childhood cancer. An analyst conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, of nearly two million birth records and a little less than 3,000 cancer records, between the years 2003 and 2016 compellingly suggests that children born to obese mothers significantly  increase their risk of developing chronic illnesses earlier in life.

“Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to in utero and early-life exposures. Thus, a mother’s exposures before and during pregnancy could have important consequences for her child’s health, including cancer development,” explained lead researcher Shaina Stacy in the new paper.

Maternal obesity, birth size, and risk of childhood cancer development

Children born to mothers with BMIs above 40 were found to be 57% more likely to develop leukemia before they turn five years old and 59% more likely to develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia before the age of 14.

Children born to mothers with BMIs between 18 and 24, who were otherwise considered to be of normal weight, additionally expressed a 37% risk increase for developing any kind of cancer. Infants born to mothers in the highest BMI group were 77% more likely to develop leukemia before their fifth birthday.

Although the extremities were attended by corresponding risk increases,  obesity (assigned to any individual with a BMI of 30 or higher) was not a factor independently – BMI was the most reliable predictor on either side. In fact, being thinner than what is medically healthy for your size came with its own cancer risk. The study continues, “Being <30% below expected size also increased the overall cancer risk (P for curvilinearity < 0.0001). Newborn size did not mediate the association between maternal obesity and childhood cancer. The results suggest a significant role of early-life exposure to maternal obesity and fetal growth-related factors in childhood cancer development.”

More research has to be conducted in order to categorially motion a why, but the experts suspect the increases in cancer risks are likely owed to either insulin imbalance or changes in the mother’s DNA sequence. There were also a few relevant components uncovered by the study that frustrated the clarity of any potential hypothesis. For instance, for whatever reasons, maternal height offered an oddly specific risk association. Among five to 14-year-olds, the development of cancer was 89%  more likely if they were born to taller mothers as opposed to moms of average height.

“It’s very important for women and pregnant women to talk to their doctors first to get advice on what’s good for their individual health,” Stacy, of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh, explained to“I think what’s promising for our study is we see  lower risk with lower BMIs, so to me, that translates to (the idea that) even small reductions in body mass index, whether that’s pre, or during, pregnancy, could translate to reductions in risks for cancer in children.”