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Obesity, Mortality and Tongue Cancer Survivors

Head and Neck BandageResearch is clear that obesity increases risk of several cancers and studies suggest it may also link to poorer prognosis for survivors. Now a study finds that obesity before diagnosis of an early-stage tongue cancer links to a five-fold increase in the risk of death from the cancer, compared to survivors at a normal weight.

The study was published in the journal Cancer. It is the first study to associate obesity with poorer survival in any head and neck cancer, according to the authors.

Tongue cancers, along with other head and neck cancers, are often linked to weight loss because the tumor interferes with a person's ability to eat. Treatment of more advanced cancers also could impact weight and survival. In an attempt to isolate obesity, the study authors here focused on an early-stage tongue cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

The study included 155 patients who received treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering from 2000 to 2009. Weight, along with other relevant data, were collected when patients were first evaluated, before surgery.

Survivors who were obese had a five-fold greater risk of dying from the cancer during the course of the study, compared to those at a normal weight. This was after taking into account other risk factors, including smoking history, diabetes, age and other risk factors.

The obese survivors also had a greater risk of dying overall, from any cause, during the course of the study.

AICR links increased risk of head and neck cancers to greater alcohol intake; fruits and non-starchy vegetables decrease risk of the cancers. Tobacco use is also clearly linked to risk of head and neck cancers. 

Source: Iyengar NM, Kochhar A, Morris PG, Morris LG, Zhou XK, Ghossein RA, Pino A, Fury MG, Pfister DG, Patel SG, Boyle JO, Hudis CA, Dannenberg AJ. Impact of obesity on the survival of patients with early-stage squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue. Cancer. 2014 Jan 21. [Epub ahead of print]

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