Unexpected weight loss associated with cancer in 10 cancer sites, finds new study

Oxford University | April 2018 | Weight loss is an important predictor of cancer

A team of scientists from  Oxford and Essex Universities conducted a systematic review and meta- analysis to examine all the literature on the association between weight loss and cancer in primary care. This robust study, the first of its kind in this area, demonstrates that unintentional weight loss is the second highest risk factor for colorectal, lung, pancreatic and renal cancers (via Oxford University).

Their analysis of 25 studies,  over 11.5 million patients  -predominantly in primary care 22 of the studies or 92% – used data coded by clinicians in primary care. Four-fifths of these data defined weight loss as a physician’s coding of the symptom; the remainder collected data directly.  An association was  identified with weight loss linked with 10 cancer sites: prostate, colorectal, lung, gastro-oesophageal, pancreatic, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian, myeloma, renal tract, and biliary tree.
This also showed that people aged over 60 with unexpected weight loss have more than 3% chance of having cancer in one of the 10 cancer sites. In females in this age group, the average risk across all sites involved was estimated to be up to 6.7%, and in males up to 14.2%.

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The authors of the study conclude that a a primary care clinician’s decision to code for weight loss is highly predictive of cancer.
The article has been published in the British Journal of General Practice online ahead of print.

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