Is There a Causal Relationship between Childhood Obesity and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia? A Review Academic Article uri icon

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  • Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic with numerous global health implications. Over the past few years, novel insights have emerged about the contribution of adult obesity to cancer risk, but the evidence base is far more limited in children. While pediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are at risk of obesity, it is unclear if there are potential causal mechanisms by which obesity leads to ALL development. This review explores the endocrine, metabolic and immune dysregulation triggered by obesity and its potential role in pediatric ALL’s genesis. We describe possible mechanisms, including adipose tissue attraction and protection of lymphoblasts, and their impact on ALL chemotherapies’ pharmacokinetics. We also explore the potential contribution of cytokines, growth factors, natural killer cells and adipose stem cells to ALL initiation and propagation. While there are no current definite causal links between obesity and ALL, critical questions persist as to whether the adipose tissue microenvironment and endocrine actions can play a causal role in childhood ALL, and there is a need for more research to address these questions.


  • Dushnicky, Molly J
  • Nazarali, Samina
  • Mir, Adhora
  • Portwine, Carol
  • Samaan, Muder Constantine

publication date

  • October 22, 2020