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Obesity and cancer: the risks, science, and potential management strategies

Obesity and cancer: the risks, science, and potential management strategies

Oncology 19(7): 871-81; Discussion 881-2, 885-6

Overweight and obesity increase the risk of developing several cancers. Once cancer develops, individuals may be at increased risk of recurrence and poorer survival if they are overweight or obese. A statistically significant association between overweight or obesity and breast cancer recurrence or survival has been observed in the majority of population-based case series; however, adiposity has been shown to have less of an effect on prognosis in the clinical trial setting. Weight gain after breast cancer diagnosis may also be associated with decreased prognosis. New evidence suggests that overweight/obesity vs normal weight may increase the risk of poor prognosis among resected colon cancer patients and the risk of chemical recurrence inprostate cancer patients. Furthermore, obese cancer patients are at increased risk for developing problems following surgery, including wound complication, lymphedema, second cancers, and the chronic diseases affecting obese individuals without cancer such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Mechanisms proposed to explain the association between obesity and reduced prognosis include adipose tissue-induced increased concentrations of estrogens and testosterone, insulin, bioavailable insulin-like growth factors, leptin, and cytokines. Additional proposed mechanisms include reduced immune functioning, chemotherapy dosing, and differences in diet and physical activity in obese and nonobese patients. There have been no randomized clinical trials testing the effect of weight loss on recurrence or survival in overweight or obese cancer patients, however. In the absence of clinical trial data, normal weight, overweight, and obese patients should be advised to avoid weight gain through the cancer treatment process. In addition, weight loss is probably safe, and perhaps helpful, for overweight and obese cancer survivors who are otherwise healthy.

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Accession: 049727341

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PMID: 16053036

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