Losing Doesn’t Win Against Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer patient lifespan affected by weight

(RxWiki News) There's mounting evidence that a person’s weight and BMI (body mass index) at the time of their cancer diagnosis can make a difference in the course of the disease. Weight loss, if needed, is usually a positive move for people with cancer – but not for all.

Obese pancreatic cancer patients who lose a lot of weight, muscle and fat have poorer outcomes than patients of normal weight.

"Talk to your oncologist about diet and exercise."

This is what researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have learned recently.

They worked with the records of 41 people who had pancreatic cancer that couldn’t be operated on. The patients were participating in a study looking a combined chemotherapy and radiation.

Body composition of the study participants was taken before and after treatment with CT (computed tomography) scans. The course of radiation was a median (middle amount) of 104 days.

Most of the people in the study were women, and the median age was 69. A total of 24 of the participants were overweight or obese. The majority (63 percent) had sarcopenia – loss of muscle mass.

Researchers found that 33 patients had lost about 5 percent of their body weight. They had also lost 4 percent of muscle near skeletal bones. About 13 percent lost visceral (abdominal) fat and 11 percent lost fat that surrounds the internal organs.

Not surprisingly, obese patients lost the most weight, muscle and fat. Patients in this group lived a median of 12 months. One analysis showed that the loss of body mass was associated with shorter survival.

The authors concluded, “Our preliminary findings suggest that obese patients experience higher losses in weight, SKM [skeletal muscle], and VAT [visceral adipose tissue], which may contribute to poorer survival in these patients.”

This study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

Financial information was not available.

Review Date: 
August 31, 2012