A new study suggests they may have poorer long-term survival odds than their thinner counterparts if they do develop the disease. The findings are reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
The report suggests that excess weight may particularly affect male survivors’ long-term prognosis. The study of nearly 4,400 U.S. adults treated for colon cancer conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that obese patients were one-quarter to one-third more likely to die over the next eight years than their normal-weight counterparts.
The relationship between obesity and survival appeared stronger among men — possibly, the researchers speculate, because men are more likely than women to have their excess body fat concentrated in the belly.
Abdominal obesity is particularly linked to hormonal effects that, in theory, could contribute to colon cancer development or the cancer’s aggressiveness.
However, whether and how obesity, per se, affects colon cancer survival remains unclear. The current study points to a relationship between obesity and long-term survival, but does not prove that excess body fat directly affects a patient’s prognosis.
The researchers say the findings suggest that people treated for colon cancer should try to maintain a body mass index lower than 30, the cutoff for obesity. Body mass index, or BMI, is a measure of weight in relation to height.
People may think, ‘I already have cancer. What difference does my weight make? notes Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. This study suggests the cancer may behave more aggressively if you’re obese. Milder obesity, however, was linked to a 24 percent higher risk of death.