April 2024 | George M. Pikler, M.D., Ph.D., FACP, Lead Oncology Advocate N1X10

Worsening Metabolic Syndrome May Increase Cancer Risk

The metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its concomitant diseases are a severe health problem world-wide and most likely will gain even more importance in the future since the prevalence of obesity is rising.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) encompasses a constellation of conditions such as high blood pressure, insulin resistance, excess body fat around the waist (“central obesity”), and atherogenic dyslipidemia. These conditions are not only interconnected but also synergistic, and when combined, can lead to more severe health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes.

Available evidence from epidemiological, clinical, translational, and experimental studies also supports the hypothesis that MetS or components of MetS may be important etiologic factors for certain cancers, progression of some cancers as well as altering the outcome of some cancers.

Several studies have demonstrated that individuals with MetS, particularly those with concurrent chronic inflammation, have a higher risk of developing at least 13 cancer types, including colorectal, liver, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, pancreatic, bladder, and kidney cancer. The exact reasons for this link remain elusive; however, factors such as chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and altered hormone levels are thought to contribute. Managing metabolic diseases therapeutically, such as with metformin and statin pharmacologic treatment, has been shown to reduce cancer risk and improve survival for a number of cancer types.

The basic approach for cancer prevention in patients with MetS is to prevent risk factors. Life style modifications that may alleviate the MetS and reduce the risk include: maintaining a healthy weight and BMI in the normal range, following healthy eating patterns, staying active with regular physical activity, avoiding the use of tobacco, mild to moderate alcohol consumption and stress management.

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Erica Cross, PA


Erica is a board certified Physician Assistant. She obtained her Master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies from Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, LA. She began practicing in 2011 and has worked clinically in Orthopedics and Dermatology. The majority of her career has been spent in a Dermatology practice where she assisted in Mohs surgery, treating various types of skin cancer. She also teaches in the medical simulation department at the University of South Alabama and enjoys every aspect of medical education.