The worldwide prevalence of obesity has doubled during the last 50 years, and according to the World Obesity Federation, one third of the people on Earth will be obese by the year 2025. Obesity is described as a chronic, relapsing and multifactorial disease that causes metabolic, biomechanical, and psychosocial health consequences. Growing evidence suggests that obesity is a risk factor for multiple cancer types and rivals smoking as the leading preventable cause for cancer incidence and mortality. The epidemic of obesity will likely generate a new wave of obesity-related cancers with high aggressiveness and shortened latency. Observational studies have shown that from cancer risk to disease prognosis, an individual with obesity is consistently ranked worse compared to their lean counterpart. Mechanistic studies identified similar sets of abnormalities under obesity that may lead to cancer development, including ectopic fat storage, altered adipokine profiles, hormone fluctuations and meta-inflammation, but could not explain how these common mechanisms produce over 13 different cancer types. A major hurdle in the mechanistic underpinning of obesity-related cancer is the lack of suitable pre-clinical models that spontaneously develop obesity-linked cancers like humans. Current approaches and animal models fall short when discerning the confounders that often coexist in obesity. In this mini-review, we will briefly survey advances in the different obesity-linked cancers and discuss the challenges and limitations in the rodent models employed to study their relationship. We will also provide our perspectives on the future of obesity-linked cancer research.
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