Weight loss as a precursor to cancer diagnosis: a review

Article: Measured weight loss as a precursor to cancer diagnosis: retrospective cohort analysis of 43 302 primary care patients

Weight loss is clearly related to cancer, yet there is very little data concerning when and at what stage weight loss should be considered a sign of a need to diagnose cancer. In this study of 43,302 patients, it was found that there was a linear increase in the chance of being diagnosed with cancer compared to the amount of weight lost. This finding was independent of any co-factors, such as age, sex, original weight or co-morbidities. Therefore, it is clear that the percentage of weight lost must be focused on, rather than a guideline with an arbitrary cut-off point for a cancer diagnosis. It could be possible to trigger an alert for patients who lose certain percentages of weight over specified periods of time.

This review by Nicholson B et al aimed to understand the diagnostic value of weight loss in relationship to cancer.

Key learnings Further research must focus on bettering our understanding of the diagnostic value of weight loss in cancer. This may allow for better predictions into cancer mortality rates, as well as allow for optimised treatments for patients. Altogether, this may help in alleviating the cancer burden worldwide.

Reviewed by: Z. Beketova

Authors: Nicholson B, Thompson M, Hobbs F, et al.

Published in: JCSM 2022

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