OBJECTIVE: To investigate the relationship between weight change in adult life and subsequent mortality and cancer incidence in women.
RESEARCH METHODS AND PROCEDURES: In 1994 to 1995, all women (age range, 42 to 81) still under general practitioner observation in the United Kingdom's Royal College of General Practitioners Oral Contraception Study (n = 12,303) were sent a health survey asking about health and lifestyle issues, including current weight and weight at age 30. The main outcome measures were 6-year all-cause mortality and cancer incidence among different weight change deciles. Cox regression was used to calculate hazard ratios that were adjusted for: social class at recruitment, BMI at age 30, and age group, parity, smoking status, and hormone replacement therapy status in 1995.
RESULTS: Women who had been obese at age 30 were more likely to die and significantly more likely to develop cancer in the 6 years after the health survey than non-obese respondents. Women reporting weight gains between age 30 and 1995 were significantly less likely to die during the 6 years after the health survey than those with a stable weight, whereas those with weight loss did not fare any better than those in the stable-weight group.
DISCUSSION: Although obesity at young age was associated with subsequent mortality and cancer incidence, weight gain over a time period of 12 to 51 years appeared to be beneficial when compared with women with stable weight over the same time period. Further research is needed to confirm or refute our findings and to allow detailed examination of potential explanations for them.