Study identifies link between obesity and increased mortality in colon cancer patients

Women diagnosed with colon cancer have an increased risk of death if they are of abnormal weight, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (2010 Sep;19(9):2229-37).

Anna Prizment, PhD, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow in the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, Masonic Cancer Center, and her team conducted a study that involved 1,096 women diagnosed with colon cancer.

Dr. Prizment and her team reported that women considered “underweight” or “obese,” or who had increased abdominal obesity prior to cancer diagnosis, seemed to face a greater risk of mortality. Specifically, women classified as obese, with a BMI of at least 30 kg/m2, had a 45% increased overall mortality rate. In addition, the women classified as underweight, with a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2, had an 89% increased mortality rate compared to those with normal BMI. Furthermore, women with waist-to-hip ratio had a 30 to 40% greater risk of colon cancer-related death.

“Obese people may be diagnosed at [a] later stage, have different treatment or more comorbidities,” Dr. Prizment explained. “However, the fact that the increased abdominal obesity was associated with colon cancer mortality and those associations persisted after correcting for age, stage at cancer diagnosis and comorbidities suggest that obesity could have a direct biological effect. Obese women, especially those with higher abdominal obesity, have higher hormone levels and may have more aggressive cancer. These women have been already known to have a higher risk of developing cancer.”

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