New research analysis from the universities of Oxford and Exeter has concluded that unintended weight loss is the second highest risk factor for some forms of cancer.
This is the first systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the available evidence on the link between weight loss and cancer in primary care.
The team’s study found that unintended weight loss is the second highest risk factor for cancers, including lung, pancreatic, colorectal and renal.
A total of 25 studies were analysed, which incorporated a total of 11.5 million patients. The researchers discovered that losing weight was linked to ten types of cancer.
In females over 60, the average risk across all sites involved was estimated to be up to 14.2% in males and up to 6.7% in females.
Speeding up cancer diagnosis
Dr Brian Nicholson, lead author of the study from the University of Oxford, said: “Streamlined services that allow GPs to investigate non-specific symptoms like weight loss are vitally important and urgently needed if we are to catch cancer earlier and save lives.
“Our research indicates that co-ordinated investigation across multiple body sites could help to speed up cancer diagnosis in patients with weight loss. We now need to continue our research to understand the most appropriate combination of tests and to give guidance on how much weight loss GPs and patients should worry about.”
‘Important efforts to save lives from cancer’
Professor Willie Hamilton, co-author of the study from the University of Exeter, added: “We’ve always known that unplanned weight loss may represent cancer. This study pulls together all the published evidence and demonstrates beyond doubt that it is important in efforts to save lives from cancer.
“It is particularly timely with this week’s announcement of ‘one-stop’ shops for cancer diagnosis. These units pull together all the necessary tests under one roof – making the investigation of weight loss much more speedy and convenient for the patient.”
The paper was published in the British Journal of General Practice.
Source: Exeter University