Unintended significant weight loss within two years is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing cancer in the next twelve months.
A new prospective cohort analysis involving experts from Harvard University examined how weight loss in the previous two years affects the rate of subsequent cancer diagnoses. The results can be read in the specialist journal “JAMA”.
More than 157,000 people examined
In total, the team analyzed data from 157,474 people with an average age of 62 years who worked in healthcare. These included women who took part in the so-called Nurses Health Study and were at least 40 years old. Men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who were also at least 40 years old were also examined.
Weight changes determined
The researchers calculated possible weight changes based on the weight that the participants self-reported every two years.
The intention to lose weight was classified as high if both physical activity and diet quality increased, medium if only one of the two characteristics increased, and low if neither of the two characteristics increased, the experts explain .
What types of cancer were most common?
During the follow-up period, a total of 15,809 cancers occurred among the participants. The most common diseases among participants who had recently lost weight were esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, biliary tract cancer and pancreatic cancer, the team reports.
Significantly increased risk of cancer
In other words: Healthcare workers who had lost significant weight in the last two years without any action of their own had a significantly increased risk of cancer in the next twelve months. According to the experts, cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract were particularly common.
The results illustrate the connections between weight and cancer risk. Previous studies have tended to report an increased risk associated with overweight and obesity, but the current results show that weight loss may also be a risk factor for cancer.
- Cancer: Why life-threatening weight loss occurs
- Cancer: Obesity almost doubles the risk of uterine cancer
- The risk of cancer is permanently increased due to obesity in childhood
- Colon cancer and obesity: a previously underestimated risk combination
An unintentional weight loss of more than ten percent within two years is associated with a significantly higher rate of cancer in the following twelve months and should therefore be viewed as a possible warning. (as)