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Obesity-related cancers account for 40% of the cancer cases observed in the USA and obesity is overtaking smoking as the most widespread modifiable risk factor for carcinogenesis. Here, we use the hallmarks of cancer framework to delineate how obesity might influence the carcinogenic hallmarks in somatic cells. We discuss the effects of obesity on (a) sustaining proliferative signaling; (b) evading growth suppressors; (c) resisting cell death; (d) enabling replicative immortality; (e) inducing angiogenesis; (f) activating invasion and metastasis; (g) reprogramming energy metabolism; and (h) avoiding immune destruction, together with its effects on genome instability and tumour-promoting inflammation. We present the current understanding and controversies in this evolving field, and highlight some areas in need of further cross-disciplinary focus. For instance, the relative importance of the many potentially causative obesity-related factors is unclear for each type of malignancy. Even within a single tumour type, it is currently unknown whether one obesity-related factor consistently plays a predominant role, or if this varies between patients or, even in a single patient with time. Clarifying how the hallmarks are affected by obesity may lead to novel prevention and treatment strategies for the increasingly obese population.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Metastasis Rev

Publication Date



Adiposity, BMI, Cancer, Carcinogenesis, Hallmarks of cancer, Obesity