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Obese Colon Cancer Survivors Face Poorer Prognosis
Date:3/9/2010

tients were normal weight (BMI of 20 to 24.9), while a similar number were deemed overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9). Six percent were classified as underweight (BMI under 20).

Tracking all the cancer survivors for an average of eight years, Sinicrope and his associates observed that 36 percent went on to experience cancer recurrence, while 42 percent ultimately died.

Furthermore, the researchers found that, taken as a group, being either moderately or very obese was associated on average with a 19 percent increase in the risk for death, when compared with normal-weight cancer patients.

Although the pool of underweight patients was considerably smaller, the researchers found that the underweight group also had a much poorer survival rate than normal-weight patients. And while overweight patients actually seemed to fare slightly better (by 6 percent) than normal-weight survivors, Sinicrope indicated that more sophisticated obesity measurements that take into account muscle-mass ratios (not revealed by BMI) could yield slightly different results.

Gender differences were also apparent.

With a patient pool that was more or less evenly divided between men and women, the authors found that taken on their own, the most severely obese men faced the highest risk for cancer recurrence and death -- tagged as a 35 percent increase, relative to normal-weight patients.

However, women on the lowest end of the obesity scale were linked to a 24 percent increased risk for death -- a risk that actually dropped down to 11 percent as obesity rose.

"For now, we don't really have a clear explanation for why the moderately obese women did worse than the very obese women," said Sinicrope. "Menopausal status and hormone replacement therapy -- which could be protective against colon cancer -- could both be factors. But we don't know which women were pre- or postmenopausal and which were taking this medication."

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