Expect Questions from Patients about Impact of Weight on Prognosis

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Increased awareness of the strong association between obesity and higher rates of cancer recurrence and mortality needs to be transmitted from oncologists to patients, but the message needs to concern more than just weight, according to Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD, MPH, Associate Director of the Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Science, at the National Cancer Institute. Issues of weight, physical activity, and other health lifestyle habits are all interrelated, and should be considered along with improvements in cancer screening and treatment that have resulted in “cancer shifting for many people to a chronic condition,” she said in an interview with The ASCO Post.

“We have very good evidence that the health behaviors related to reducing risk for many chronic diseases—like not smoking, having a healthy weight, being active on a daily basis, and eating properly—are all things that actually lead to much better overall health as we get older. This is a very important message for people with cancer as well. Twenty years ago, people didn’t think it was so relevant because patients with cancer tended to die much more quickly; that is just not the case anymore.” ■

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SIDEBAR: Expect Questions from Patients about Impact of Weight on Prognosis

“We have not had a randomized controlled trial of weight loss among people at risk for cancer who don’t yet have the disease, where we can show that weight loss reduces the risk for cancer. And we never will,” Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD, MPH, told The ASCO Post.

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