Tumors, losing weight without wanting it can be a sign

Tumors, losing weight without wanting it can be a sign


“Weight loss may depend on an increase in physical activity or a healthier diet, and this is a good thing for your health. But when you lose weight spontaneously, in the absence of healthier behaviors, it is advisable to consult your doctor base that will evaluate whether to investigate the issue further. Because losing weight spontaneously can be the effect of many conditions, including cancer”. These are the words of Brian Wolpin, oncologist, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at Harvard University. Most importantly, Wolpin is the lead author of research published on the Jama which demonstrates the connection: those who lose weight without having done anything to lose weight have a significantly higher risk of undergoing an oncological diagnosis, and in particular (but not only) in the upper gastrointestinal tract: esophagus, stomach and pancreas.

Two great studies

Wolpin and colleagues evaluated over 157,000 people whose data were collected in two extensive longitudinal studies: the Nurses’ Health Study, which began almost 50 years ago at Harvard and enrolled nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 starting in 1976, and the ‘Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which enrolled male health professionals between the ages of 40 and 75 starting in 1986. All were followed through 2016 for an average of 28 years. Using a questionnaire, they provided information on their weight and physical activity every two years, and every 4 years on any changes in their diet. Cross-referencing all the information, a correlation emerged between the appearance of the tumor and the loss of more than 10% of body weight in the 12 months preceding the diagnosis: 1,362 out of 100,000 compared to 869 out of 100,000. The overall risk of receiving a cancer diagnosis was therefore 3.2% among people who had undergone significant weight loss and 1.3% among those who had not.

A sign of an early tumor

Patients with advanced oncological disease often lose weight, due to mechanisms that depend on the affected organ. But this study has shown that weight is lost even when the cancer is at an early stage, or in any case even before diagnosis: this is important data, because it could help diagnose the disease earlier, when there are more possibilities for more effective treatments.

A confirmation

This study confirms and strengthens the findings of previous research that have already linked unintentional weight loss to an increased risk of cancer. But in previous studies, weight data had been collected in already established patients. In this study, however, data on weight changes were collected prospectively and regularly over decades and related to men and women who did not meet their doctors for health reasons. Furthermore, this study also took into consideration all types of cancer. Losing weight is good, in fact it’s very good, as long as you try to do it.



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