PurposeThe association between metabolic syndrome (MetS) and the risk of death from cancer is still a controversial issue. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations of MetS and metabolically unhealthy obesity (MUHO) with cancer mortality in a Japanese population.MethodsWe used data from the Japan Multi-Institutional Collaborative Cohort Study. The study population consisted of 28,554 eligible subjects (14,103 men and 14,451 women) aged 35-69 years. MetS was diagnosed based on the criteria of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP III) and the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity (JASSO), using the body mass index instead of waist circumference. The Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for total cancer mortality in relation to MetS and its components. Additionally, the associations of obesity and the metabolic health status with cancer mortality were examined.ResultsDuring an average 6.9-year follow-up, there were 192 deaths from cancer. The presence of MetS was significantly correlated with increased total cancer mortality when the JASSO criteria were used (HR = 1.51, 95% CI 1.04-2.21), but not when the NCEP-ATP III criteria were used (HR = 1.09, 95% CI 0.78-1.53). Metabolic risk factors, elevated fasting blood glucose, and MUHO were positively associated with cancer mortality (P ConclusionMetS diagnosed using the JASSO criteria and MUHO were associated with an increased risk of total cancer mortality in the Japanese population.