In contrast to the convincing evidence that obesity (measured by body mass index, BMI) increases the risk of many different types of cancer, there is an ambiguity in the role of obesity in survival among cancer patients. Some studies suggested that higher BMI decreased mortality risk in cancer patients, a phenomenon called the obesity paradox. The spurious positive association between BMI and cancer survival is likely to be explained by several methodologic limitations including confounding, reverse causation, and collider stratification bias. Also, the inadequacy of BMI as a measure of body fatness in cancer patients commonly experiencing changes in body weight and body composition may have resulted in the paradox. Other factors contributing to the divergent results in literature are significant heterogeneity in study design and method (e.g., study population, follow-up length); time of BMI assessment (pre-, peri-, or post-diagnosis); and lack of consideration for variability in the strength and directions of associations by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and cancer subtype. Robust but practical methods to accurately assess body fatness and body compositions and weight trajectories in cancer survivors are needed to advance this emerging field and to develop weight guidelines to improve both the length and the quality of cancer survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1898-1903
Number of pages6
JournalCancer research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2018


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