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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Energy Balance and Obesity

Metabolic Epidemiology Branch

Energy balance — the difference between dietary energy intake and energy expended through physical activity and resting metabolism - is thought to increase the risk of several important cancers, including colon, post-menopausal breast, endometrium, kidney, and esophagus. 

The high prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity is a worldwide public health issue, yet the mechanisms by which energy imbalance and obesity cause cancer remain unclear. MEB investigators are pursuing several approaches to address these issues, including:

  • Improvement of assessment tools for diet, physical activity, and body size, in order to disentangle these interrelated exposures;
  • Performance of etiologic studies in high-risk populations (e.g., South Asians);
  • Studies of biochemical mechanisms, including the use of high-throughput multiplex assays of possible obesity-related biomarkers (such as inflammatory markers/cytokines, metabolic hormones, and sex hormones).

A wide variety of studies are conducted using the following cohorts: