London, Feb 6: Overweight children may be at a higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer as adults than their slimmer peers, a new large-scale research has warned.
Researchers studied the health records of more than 255,000 Danish school children, born between 1930 and 1971, whose height and weight was measured every year between the ages of 7 and 13.
More than 250 of the children went on to develop oesophageal cancer after the age of 40. By matching these middle-aged patients with their school records, researchers found that children aged 9-13 with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), who were more likely to be overweight or obese, appeared to be at greater risk of developing this type of cancer in later life.
Using their results from the 1930s to the 1970s, researchers calculated that 2.1 per cent of all oesophageal cases in adult men in Denmark could be attributed to boys being overweight or obese at the age of 13.
They estimated that this figure could go up to around 17.5 per cent of all these male oesophageal cancer cases in the future due to the rise in childhood obesity levels.
"Our results suggest that the increase in the number of overweight and obese children might lead to a significant rise in future cases of oesophageal cancer," said Dr Jennifer Baker, associate professor at The Institute of Preventive Medicine in Denmark and the University of Copenhagen.
"It may be that being overweight as a child is directly linked to a higher risk of developing this cancer in later life. "Or it might be that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, and we know that being above a healthy weight as an adult is a risk factor for many cancers, including oesophageal.
"More research is needed, but however the link works, our results underline how important it is for children to be a healthy weight - particularly as there is some evidence that overweight children could be at higher risk of other cancers later in life," Baker said. The research was published in the British Journal of Cancer.