Epidemiologic evidence that excess body weight increases risk of cervical cancer by decreased detection of precancer

Megan A. Clarke, Barbara Fetterman, Li C. Cheung, Nicolas Wentzensen, Julia C. Gage, Hormuzd A. Katki, Brian Befano, Maria Demarco, John Schussler, Walter K. Kinney, Tina R. Raine-Bennett, Thomas S. Lorey, Nancy E. Poitras, Philip E. Castle, Mark Schiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Purpose Obesity has been inconsistently linked to increased cervical cancer incidence and mortality; however, the effect of obesity on cervical screening has not been explored. We investigated the hypothesis that increased body mass might decrease detection of cervical precancer and increase risk of cervical cancer even in women undergoing state-of-the-art screening. Methods We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 944,227 women age 30 to 64 years who underwent cytology and human papillomavirus DNA testing (ie, cotesting) at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (January 2003 to December 2015). Body mass index was categorized as normal/ underweight (,<25 kg/m 2 ), overweight (25 to < 30 kg/m 2 ), or obese (≥ 30 kg/m 2 ). We estimated 5-year cumulative risks of cervical precancer and cancer by category of body mass index using logistic Weibull survival models. Results We observed lower risk of cervical precancer (n = 4,489) and higher risk of cervical cancer (n = 490) with increasing body mass index. Specifically, obese women had the lowest 5-year risk of precancer (0.51%; 95% CI, 0.48% to 0.54% v 0.73%; 95% CI, 0.70% to 0.76% in normal/underweight women; P trend<001). In contrast, obese women had the highest 5-year risk of cancer (0.083%; 95% CI, 0.072% to 0.096% v 0.056%; 95% CI, 0.048% to 0.066% in normal/underweight women; P trend<001). Results were consistent in subgroups defined by age (30 to 49 v 50 to 64 years), human papillomavirus status (positive v negative), and histologic subtype (glandular v squamous). Approximately 20% of cervical cancers could be attributed to overweight or obesity in the women in our study who underwent routine cervical screening. Conclusion In this large, screened population, overweight and obese women had an increased risk of cervical cancer, likely because of underdiagnosis of cervical precancer. Improvements in equipment and/or technique to assure adequate sampling and visualization of women with elevated body mass might reduce cervical cancer incidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1184-1191
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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