The prevalence of obesity has markedly increased over the past two decades, especially in the industrialized countries. While the impact of excess body weight on the development of cardiac disease and diabetes has been well documented, the link between obesity and carcinogenesis is just being recognized. This review will focus on the link between leptin, a cytokine that is elevated in obese individuals, and cancer development. First, we briefly discuss the biological functions of leptin and its signaling pathways. Then, we summarize the effects of leptin on different cancer types in experimental cellular and animal models. Next, we analyze epidemiological data on the relationship between obesity and the presence of cancer or cancer risk in patients. Finally, leptin as a target for cancer treatment and prevention will be discussed.
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