Today's rising obesity rates could lead to more cases of testicular cancer in the next generation, research suggests.
While more investigation is required, a study out of Norway indicates that higher body weight during pregnancy is associated with a subsequent increased risk for testicular cancer among male offspring. The research was reported in the International Journal of Cancer.
In the study, researchers looked at data on maternal weight dating back to the Second World War, during which time Norway had imposed a 15% to 20% energy restriction on the general population, which resulted in lower body weights. According to researchers, this provided a "unique opportunity" to compare maternal weight with incidence of testicular cancer among men born during that period, as well as among those born before and after.
The researchers looked at data from 3,000 women who gave birth at the National Hospital in Oslo between 1931 and 1955. All of the women included in the study had full-term, single births. The researchers compared information on maternal age, weight prior to delivery, baby's gender and weight, and other factors to the rate of testicular cancer among all men born in Norway during the same period.
With the exception of the years spanning the Second World War, maternal weight increased throughout the study period. And after adjusting for differences in birth weight and maternal age, the researchers found a significant correlation between increasing maternal weight and incidence of testicular cancer.
Though the cause of this relationship is unclear, higher body weight is associated with higher levels of estrogen, exposure to which while in the womb - especially during the first trimester - is believed to play a role in the development of testicular cancer.
"There is a possibility that the increase in TC (testicular cancer) incidence over the past decades could be at least partly attributed to the increased maternal body weight observed in most populations in the relevant time period," wrote the researchers. "Our results further support the notion that TC is an example of a 'civilization disease' associated with a Westernized lifestyle with increase in obesity, obesity-associated cancer forms and diabetes type 2."
However, they noted that their study only indirectly examines the relationship between maternal weight and testicular cancer and suggest that a study looking at specific cases would be a stronger indicator of a relationship between the two.
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