Carrying too much weight as a child increases an individual's risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma - HCC).
Those are the findings of a large Danish study presented at the International Liver Congress 2012.
"Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the healthiest things you can do."
The study examined the birth weight and body mass index (BMI) of children during their school years. Some 165,500 men and 161,000 women born between 1930 and 1989 were monitored.
Researchers figured and compared the risk of developing HCC among 252 participants who had the disease at the time of follow-up.
The risk of HCC increased for every unit increase in BMI seen at ages 7 and 13 and into adulthood. This held true for both men and women of all ages.
According to Dr. Frank Lammert, a European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) Scientific Committee Member, "Childhood obesity not only leads to the development of many adverse metabolic conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, but also fatty liver disease, which may subsequently result in liver cancer."
Liver cancer can also develop as the result of other liver diseases, alcoholic drinking, and hepatitis B and C infections.
Even when these risk factors were removed from the equation, results didn't change. This means that childhood obesity is the major contributor for liver cancer development later in life.
"The importance of maintaining a healthy childhood BMI cannot be underestimated. These alarming study results point to a potential correlation between childhood obesity and development of liver cancer in adulthood," Dr. Lambert said.
Most people succumb to liver cancer in a matter of months after treatment.
This research was supported and conducted as part of the Fatty Liver Inhibition of Progress (FLIP) consortia.
Before publication in a peer-reviewed journal, research is considered preliminary.