Obesity increases risk of cancer recurrence and death in esophageal cancer patients who have been treated with surgery, say researchers.
In their 778-patient study, the Mayo Clinic researchers found that five-year survival in obese patients - those with a body mass index of 30 or higher - with esophageal cancer was 18 percent, compared to 36 percent in patients of normal weight.
The research is the first to find that obese patients with esophageal cancer have worse outcomes following surgery than patients with a normal weight, according to lead investigator, Harry Yoon, M.D.
"Obesity is considered a risk factor in the development of this cancer, which is known to be both highly lethal and increasingly common. But prior to this study, we did not really understand the impact of obesity in this upper gastrointestinal cancer," he noted.
If validated in another study, the findings may change the way some physicians counsel obese patients with this disease, Dr. Yoon stated.
"As an oncologist, I did not typically speak to my patients about excess body weight as part of their care, because we are more often concerned about weight loss and maintaining proper nutrition, but that may change. It would be helpful to be able to offer patients some measures that they can take to possibly impact their prognosis," he added.
The study appeared in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.