||As the land use issue, caused by urban shrinkage in China, is becoming more and more prominent, research on urban shrinkage and expansion has become particularly challenging and urgent. Based on the points of interest (POI) data, this paper redefines the scope, quantity, and area of natural cities by using threshold methods, which accurately identify the shrinkage and expansion of cities in the Yellow River affected area using night light data in 2013 and 2018. The results show that: (1) there are 3130 natural cities (48,118.75 km2) in the Yellow River affected area, including 604 shrinking cities (8407.50 km2) and 2165 expanding cities (32,972.75 km2). (2) The spatial distributions of shrinking and expanding cities are quite different. The shrinking cities are mainly located in the upper Yellow River affected area, except for the administrative cities of Lanzhou and Yinchuan; the expanding cities are mainly distributed in the middle and lower Yellow River affected area, and the administrative cities of Lanzhou and Yinchuan. (3) Shrinking and expanding cities are typically smaller cities. The research results provide a quick data supported approach for regional urban planning and land use management, for when regional and central governments formulate the outlines of urban development monitoring and regional planning.