Obesity Doesn't Extend Life

Esophageal cancer survivors with excess weight have lower survival rates

(RxWiki News) Carrying around too many pounds does no body any good. This, unfortunately, is especially the case with cancer survivors. And having too, too much weight can be a drag on survival. Literally.

For esophageal cancer survivors who have had surgery to treat the disease, obesity doubles their risk of having the cancer return and dying from it. Those are the findings of a recent Mayo Clinic study.

"Keep on keeping on to get to and keep a healthy weight."

Harry Yoon, M.D., an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, enrolled 778 patients to study the impact of obesity on esophageal cancer outcomes following surgery.

The patients who participated in the study had never smoked. They had all been treated at the Mayo Clinic and they'd all had an esophagectomy (surgical removal of the esophagus), which is a potential cure for this cancer.

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The study found that the five-year survival for obese patients was 18 percent, as opposed to 36 percent for normal weight patients with esophageal cancer.

"Obesity is considered a risk factor in the development of this cancer, which is known to be both highly lethal and increasingly common," Dr. Yoon said.

"But prior to this study, we did not really understand the impact of obesity in this upper gastrointestinal cancer."

Dr. Yoon says this study builds on previous research that has demonstrated a link between obesity and poorer outcomes in other types of cancer.

It's believed that the excess weight causes chronic inflammation which can increase the risk of both cancer developing and worse outcomes.

If these findings are validated in future research, Dr. Yoon says it may change the way physicians counsel obese cancer patients and survivors.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources.

This research appeared in the December 1, 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Review Date: 
December 22, 2011