Study: Obesity and liver cancer linked

April 23, 2012, 7:29 a.m.

Childhood obesity, exacerbated by a lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits and possibly genetics, may cause an increased risk of liver cancer in adults. (Credit: Peter Lee/Flickr Creative Commons)

As if the list of negative side effects of obesity needed to get any longer: Now researchers are saying that people who were obese as children are at an increased risk for liver cancer.

A new study looked at birth weight and body mass index (BMI) – a measure of body fat based on height and weight – in approximately 165,000 and 160,000 Danish men and women, respectively, who were born between 1930 and 1989.

Its findings were presented at the International Liver Congress in Barcelona on Thursday.

According to MSN/HealthDay, researchers found that of all those participants, 252 developed a common form of liver cancer.

Further study revealed that at the age of seven, the risk of developing that form of liver cancer increased 12 percent for each one-point increase in BMI, putting obese children at particular risk for developing the cancer down the road.

By age 13, that risk shoots up to 25 percent.

Those patterns were true across the board, and although there were factors at play like alcoholism, hepatitis B and C and other liver diseases, the trend persisted even when those factors were removed.

The research team thus concluded that childhood obesity was the major risk factor in the development of liver cancer, according to MSN/HealthDay.

"The importance of maintaining a healthy childhood BMI cannot be underestimated," said Frank Lammert of the European Association for the Study of the Liver, in a statement. He pointed to the other negative health outcomes associated with childhood obesity, like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study's findings may also indicate South L.A. is a disproportionate risk for liver disease – even though researchers have found there is a genetic component to obesity, lifestyle also plays a major role. And statistics from the L.A. County Department of Public Health indicate that Angelenos on the southside aren't doing too good a job maintaining the right kind of lifestyle: In 2008, Council District 9 saw a childhood obesity rate of over 30 percent.

Photo by Peter Lee via Flickr Creative Commons.

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