People with persisting and worsening metabolic syndrome are at an elevated risk of various types of cancers, a recent study revealed.

Metabolic syndrome includes a group of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and abnormal cholesterol that elevate the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

The latest study published in the American Cancer Society's online journal Cancer suggests that managing metabolic syndrome could be an effective strategy to reduce cancer risk.

"Trajectories of MetS [metabolic syndrome] scores are associated with the occurrence of cancers, especially breast, endometrial, kidney, colorectal, and liver cancers, emphasizing the importance of long-term monitoring and evaluation of MetS," the researchers wrote.

The research team measured the metabolic syndrome scores of 44,115 adults in China from 2006 to 2010. The participants had an average age of 49. Based on trends in the metabolic syndrome scores, the participants were categorized into four groups.

Approximately 0.56% of participants maintained consistently low metabolic syndrome scores, while 40.84% maintained moderate to low scores, 41.46% consistently maintained moderate to high scores, and 7.14% had elevated metabolic syndrome scores that increased over time.

During the follow-up period of 2010–2021, with a median follow-up of 9.4 years, 2,271 participants developed cancer.

"Compared with participants with a low-stable trajectory pattern, those with an elevated-increasing trajectory pattern had 1.3-, 2.1-, 3.3-, 4.5-, 2.5-, and 1.6-times higher risks of developing any cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, and liver cancer, respectively," the news release stated.

Even after combining the low-stable, moderate-low, and moderate-high trajectory pattern groups, the elevated-increasing trajectory pattern group had a higher risk of all types of cancer.

Those participants with persistently high metabolic syndrome scores along with chronic inflammation are at the highest risk of developing breast, endometrial, colon, and liver cancer. However, kidney cancer was predominantly seen among participants who had persistently high scores but lacked chronic inflammation.

"This research suggests that proactive and continuous management of metabolic syndrome may serve as an essential strategy in preventing cancer. Our study can guide future research into the biological mechanisms linking metabolic syndrome to cancer, potentially resulting in targeted treatments or preventive strategies. Formal evaluation of these interventions will be needed to determine if they are able to modulate cancer risk," said senior author Han-Ping Shi.