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Rapid weight loss is associated with an increased risk of cancer

Rapid weight loss is associated with an increased risk of cancer

Intentional weight loss through more exercise or a healthier diet can be beneficial to people's health. But unintended weight loss that is not due to healthy behaviors could indicate an underlying disease, including cancer, says researcher Qiaoli Wang of the Karolinska Institutet.

In a new study, researchers looked at the relationship between unintended weight loss and the risk of diseases such as cancer.

Weight loss has been studied

The study included more than 150,000 people in the United States. Participants who were 40 or older were followed for more than 30 years. Researchers collected detailed information on weight and exercise every two years, and dietary data were reported every four years.

The researchers also evaluated behaviors that promote weight loss by evaluating changes in participants' diet and exercise.

Among the study participants, for example, there was a group whose intention to lose weight was rated as high. People increased their physical activity and improved their diet. But there was also a group in which such changes were not made. Therefore, intention to lose weight was rated as low.

Unintended weight loss may be due to cancer

In the group that did not deliberately try to lose weight, an increased risk of cancer was observed. Cancer rates in the next year were twice as high in people who lost more than ten percent of their body weight in the past two years, compared to those who did not lose weight.

“We can see that the risk is particularly high for upper gastrointestinal cancer, leukemia, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer, but not for breast cancer, urinary tract cancer, brain cancer or skin cancer,” says Qiaoli Wang.

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You should see a doctor for investigation

According to the researchers, the study indicates that people who have recently lost weight, especially those who have had unintended weight loss, should see a doctor for tests.

– If you lose weight without making any changes to your diet and exercise, you should see a doctor to find out why. There are many conditions that can lead to unexpected weight loss. Qiaoli Wang says doctors can evaluate whether the matter needs to be investigated further.

Researchers say it's also important for health care providers to take unintended weight loss into account when assessing cancer risk at the individual level.

Scientific study:

Diagnosed with cancer after recent weight lossjam.


Qiaoli Wang, Researcher at the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology, Karolinska Institutet, [email protected]