Childhood body mass index trajectories, adult-onset type 2 diabetes, and obesity-related cancers

Britt W Jensen, Julie Aarestrup, Kim Blond, Marit E Jørgensen, Andrew G Renehan, Dorte Vistisen, Jennifer L Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Elevated childhood body mass index (BMI), commonly examined as a "once-only" value, increases the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes (T2D) in adulthood. Continuous exposure to adiposity during childhood may further increase cancer risk. We examined whether longitudinal childhood BMI trajectories were associated with adult obesity-related cancer and the role of adult-onset T2D in these associations.

METHODS: Five sex-specific latent class BMI trajectories were generated for 301 927 children (149 325 girls) aged 6-15 years from the Copenhagen School Health Records Register. Information on obesity-related cancers and T2D was obtained from national health registers. Incidence rate ratios (IRR), cumulative incidences, and confidence intervals (CI) were estimated using Poisson regressions.

RESULTS: Compared with the average childhood BMI trajectory (containing approximately 40% of individuals), the rate of obesity-related cancer (excluding breast cancer) increased with higher childhood BMI trajectories among women. The highest rates occurred in the overweight (IRR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.17 to 1.38) and obesity (IRR = 1.79, 95% CI = 1.53 to 2.08) BMI trajectories. Similar patterns were observed among men. In contrast, women with the obesity childhood BMI trajectory had the lowest rate of pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer (IRR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.43 to 0.80, and IRR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.30 to 0.57, respectively). For all trajectories, the cumulative risk of obesity-related cancer increased with adult-onset T2D.

CONCLUSION: Consistent childhood overweight or obesity may increase the rates of adult obesity-related cancer and decrease the rates of breast cancer. Adult-onset T2D conferred additional risk for obesity-related cancer, but the effect did not differ across childhood BMI trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)43-51
Publication statusPublished - 10. Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:


  • Child
  • Male
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Female
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2/complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Pediatric Obesity/complications
  • Breast Neoplasms/epidemiology


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