We all know that obesity can pose any number of health risks to any individual, but now it seems that mothers who are obese can not only suffer health problems themselves but pass those health problems onto their children. Previous studies have shown that high sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to childhood obesity, but now a new study is indicating that maternal obesity may be linked to childhood cancer.
In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, done by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, found that children who were born to mothers who were deemed obese had a greater risk of developing cancer during their early childhood.
“Right now, we don’t know of many avoidable risk factors for childhood cancer,” said lead author Shaina Stacy, Ph.D., postdoctoral scholar in the Pitt Public Health Department of Epidemiology and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “My hope is that this study can be, in a way, empowering and also motivating for weight loss.”
Researchers looked at almost 2 million birth records filed in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2016 as well as approximately 3000 cancer registry records. The study showed that children born to mothers with a BMI above 40 were more likely to develop leukemia prior to turning 5 years old. Those children were found to have a 57% greater risk for cancer.
The study found that the higher the BMI, the higher the cancer rates in their children. Stacy hopes that this information will encourage women hoping to get pregnant to lose weight, as even a small amount of weight loss can reduce risk, as not all levels of obesity carried the same risk.
"We are dealing with an obesity epidemic in this country," said senior author Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health and co-leader of the cancer epidemiology and prevention program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. "From a prevention point-of-view, maintaining a healthy weight is not only good for the mother, but also for the children, too."
Losing weight and achieving a healthy body type isn't only beneficial to a mother, but it can have important health effects on their children as well.