Obesity Tied to Poor Pancreatic Cancer Surgery Outcomes

Study finds risk of disease recurrence, death nearly twice that of normal-weight patients

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WEDNESDAY, March 18, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Obese pancreatic cancer patients are more likely than non-obese patients to have worse outcomes after surgery to treat their cancer, say U.S. researchers.

"We identified a subset of obese patients (BMI greater than 35) who were at 12-fold increased risk of lymph node metastasis compared with non-obese patients (BMI of 35 or less)," wrote Dr. Jason B. Fleming, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues.

The researchers studied data from 285 pancreatic cancer patients who had surgery to remove some or all of the organ.

After about 16 months, 152 patients (53 percent) died. Patients with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 35 survived a median of 13.2 months, compared with 27.4 months for those with a BMI of less than 23. After about 32 months, 15 of 20 patients (75 percent) with a BMI of more than 35 had died, compared with 137 of 265 patients (52 percent) with a BMI of 35 of less.

"The estimated disease-free and overall survival rates were decreased in the obese patients, and the risk of cancer recurrence and death after pancreatectomy (removal of the pancreas) was nearly twice that in non-obese patients," the researchers wrote. "Cancer recurrence was observed in 95 percent (19 of 20) of patients in the group with a BMI of more than 35 vs. 61 percent (161 of 264) of all other patients."

The study is published in the March issue of the journal Archives of Surgery.

Previous studies have noted a link between a BMI higher than 35 and increased risk of death from pancreatic cancer.

"Our findings extend these observations to those patients who undergo surgery to treat pancreatic cancer and suggest that obesity is a host factor affecting tumor biology," Fleming and colleagues concluded.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about pancreatic cancer.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, March 16, 2009

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