Adipokines linking obesity with colorectal cancer risk in postmenopausal women

Gloria Y F Ho, Tao Wang, Marc J. Gunter, Howard D. Strickler, Mary Cushman, Robert C. Kaplan, Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Xiaonan Xue, Swapnil N. Rajpathak, Rowan T. Chlebowski, Mara Z. Vitolins, Philipp E. Scherer, Thomas E. Rohan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Mechanistic associations between obesity and colorectal cancer remain unclear. In this study, we investigated whether adipokines are risk factors for colorectal cancer and whether they may mediate its association with obesity. In a case-cohort study nested within the Women's Health Initiative cohort of postmenopausal women, baseline plasma samples from 457 colorectal cancer cases and 841 subcohort subjects were assayed for seven adipokines - adiponectin, leptin, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), resistin, hepatocyte growth factor, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and TNF-α. Serum insulin and estradiol values measured previously were also available for data analysis. After adjusting for age, race, smoking, colonoscopy history, and estrogen level, a low level of anti-inflammatory adiponectin and high levels of proinflammatory leptin, PAI-1, and IL-6 were associated with increased colorectal cancer risk, though only leptin remained significant after further adjustment for insulin [HRs comparing extreme quartiles (HRQ4-Q1), 1.84; 95% CI, 1.17-2.90]. Mediation analyses showed that leptin and insulin partially explained the association between waist circumference and colorectal cancer and attenuated it by 25% and 37%, respectively, with insulin being a significant mediator (P = 0.041). Our findings support the conclusion that adipokines involved in inflammation are associated with colorectal cancer risk, but that their effects may be mediated mostly by insulin, with leptin exerting an independent effect. Hyperinsulinemia and hyperleptinemia may therefore partially explain the adiposity association with colorectal cancer in postmenopausal women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3029-3037
Number of pages9
JournalCancer research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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