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Colon Cancer Prognosis Poorer for Obese Patients, says Mayo Clinic Report

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How much you weigh can greatly determine if you will recover from colon cancer or have a recurrence of cancer, a new report has found.

"Obesity has long been established as a risk factor for cancer, but our study in colon cancer patients shows that obesity predicts a poorer prognosis after the cancer is surgically removed," said Frank A. Sinicrope, M.D., professor of medicine and oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

The report in Clinical Cancer Research,a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research says obese colon cancer patients are at greater risk for death or recurrent disease compared to people within normal weight parameters.

Approximately 150,000 new colon cancer cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Statistically, men and women are equally affected, said James Abbruzzese, M.D., chairman of the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and an editorial board member of Clinical Cancer Research.

Dr. Abbruzzese says although more studies are now demonstrating that obesity plays a role as an independent risk factor for poorer health, outside of stroke or heart disease, many patients remain unaware of the heightened risk between obesity and cancer.

A recent survey from the American Institute for Cancer Research showed 49 percent of participants were unaware of the obesity-cancer link, compared to 94 percent who were aware of the increase cancer risk associated with tobacco use and 87 percent who knew of an increased cancer risk with sun exposure.

For the Mayo study, 4,381 stage I or III colon cancer patients participated, 20 percent of whom were obese. Those in the obese group showed significantly poorer overall survival independent with other variables analyzed. The survival rates were poorer for the men in the obese group, and those with the highest body mass index had a 35 percent increased risk of death compared to normal weight patients.

The weaker effect in women is consistent with studies that have shown a lower risk of developing colon cancer in obese women compared to obese men, the study said.

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