Unintentional weight loss linked to risk of certain cancers

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Weight loss within the prior two years is associated with a higher risk of cancer, according to a study of health professionals which found this risk is higher when the weight loss is unintentional. The team looked at data from 157,474 health professionals, with an average follow up of 28 years, and found that recent weight loss more than 10% of body weight was associated with a greater risk of cancer over the next 12 months, compared to those without weight loss. The team said those who weren’t intentionally losing weight through improved diet quality and exercise had a higher risk of cancer diagnosis, especially for cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The team says that many conditions, including cancer, can cause weight loss, and it’s important to monitor health, especially when the weight loss is unintentional and makes up more than 10% of the patient’s original body weight.

Journal/conference: JAMA

Link to research (DOI): 10.1001/jama.2023.25869

Organisation/s: Harvard Medical School, USA

Funder: The Nurses’ Health Study was
supported by grants UM1 CA186107 and P01
CA87969 from the National Institutes of Health.
The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study was
supported by grant U01 CA167552 from the
National Institutes of Health. The current work was
additionally supported by grant 2021-06739 from
the Swedish Research Council (awarded to
DrWang); grant R01 CA205406 from the National
Institutes of Health and funding from the
Project P Fund and the Broman Family Fund for
Pancreatic Cancer (awarded to Dr Ng); grants
U01 CA210171 and P50 CA127003 from the
National Institutes of Health and funding from the
Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research,
the Lustgarten Foundation Dedicated Laboratory
Program, Stand Up To Cancer, the Pancreatic
Cancer Action Network, the Noble Effort Fund, the
Wexler Family Fund, the Promises for Purple, and
the Bob Parsons Fund (awarded to DrWolpin). Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funders/
sponsors had no role in the design and conduct of
the study; collection, management, analysis, and
interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or
approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit
the manuscript for publication.

Media release

From: JAMA

Cancer Diagnoses After Recent Weight Loss

About The Study: Health professionals with weight loss within the prior two years had a significantly higher risk of cancer during the subsequent 12 months compared with those without recent weight loss in this study that included 157,000 participants. Cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract was particularly common among participants with recent weight loss compared with those without recent weight loss.


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