Obese people often at higher risk of cancer death

December 23rd, 2008 - 10:27 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 23 (IANS) Many obese people lack lean muscle mass which may put them at higher risk in battling diseases like cancer, says a Canadian study.Carried out at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the study found that body compositions of cancer patients determined their survival rates as well as their activity levels during the illness and even the reaction to chemotherapy treatment.

As part of their study, the researchers, led by oncology professor Vickie Baracos, viewed computed tomography images of 250 obese cancer patients, a university release said Monday.

Their findings showed that patients with a condition called sarcopenic obesity - a depletion of lean muscle mass, paired with being severely overweight - lived an average of 10 months less than their counterparts who were obese, but had more lean muscle mass.

The study also found that obese patients with lean muscle mass also tended to more bedridden and in worse physical shape than patients without sarcopenic obesity.

“In many cases, people with sarcopenic obesity have as little or sometimes less muscle mass than thin people who look as of they were made of skin and bones,” the release quoted study leader Vickie Baracos as saying.

The findings of the study showed that future prognosis for cancer patients will have to take their body composition into consideration, she said.

Factors like lean muscle mass could play a part in how these patients reacted to chemotherapy, and drug dosing could potentially be improved, Baracos said.

“It remains to be proven whether tailored doses of chemotherapy would improve treatment, but that’s possible based on what we’ve seen in this study,” she said.

“With obesity reaching new levels, new concepts relating to body weight must be explored. People’s body compositions were less variable in the past and the condition of sarcopenic obesity is a recently recognized phenomenon,” Baracos said.

The study has been published in Lancet Oncology.

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