, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 3–17 | Cite as

Linking obesity-induced leptin-signaling pathways to common endocrine-related cancers in women

  • Eunice Nyasani
  • Iqbal Munir
  • Mia Perez
  • Kimberly Payne
  • Salma Khan


Obesity is related to many major diseases and cancers. Women have higher rates of obesity and obesity is linked to commonly occurring cancers in women. However, there is a lack of knowledge of the unique mechanism(s) involved in each type of cancer. The objective of this review is to highlight the need for novel experimental approaches and a better understanding of the common and unique pathways to resolve controversies regarding the role of obesity in cancer. In women, there is a link between hormones and obesity-associated genes in cancer development. Leptin is an obesity-associated gene that has been studied extensively in cancers; however, whether the defect is in the leptin gene or in its signaling pathways remains unclear. Both leptin and its receptor have been positively correlated with cancer progression in some endocrine-related cancers in women. This review offers an up-to-date and cohesive review of both upstream and downstream pathways of leptin signaling in cancer and a comprehensive picture of cancer pathogenesis in light of current evidence of leptin effects in several major types of cancer. This work is intended to aid in the design of better therapeutic strategies for obese/overweight women with cancer.


Leptin Thyroid Ovary Breast cancer 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Alfred A. Simental, Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology, Dr. Marino De Leon, Director, Center for Health Disparities & Molecular Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine (supported by National Institute of Health (NIH)-National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities under award numbers P20MD0016321 and P20MD006988) for financial support. We would like to thank our McPherson scholar Anna Kwon, Maya I. Townsend, and Krystal R. Santiago Torres for their technical assistance in preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Health Disparities & Molecular MedicineLoma LindaUSA
  2. 2.Riverside University Health SystemMoreno ValleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pathology & Human AnatomyLoma LindaUSA
  4. 4.Division of BiochemistryLoma Linda UniversityLoma LindaUSA

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