Colorectal Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Relating Fat Deposits to Mortality in Colorectal Cancer

By: Lauren Harrison, MS
Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New research conducted by Justin C. Brown, PhD, of Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge, and colleagues shows clearer connections between fat deposits in certain areas of the body and higher rates of death in patients with colorectal cancer. The data, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, demonstrate varied relationships depending on the sex of patients and the location of fat.

“[Patients with] colorectal cancer and their oncologists need to know how obesity and body composition predict clinical outcomes after diagnosis,” said Dr. Brown regarding the study in an LSU press release. “However, patients have found there are few clear answers to even the simplest of questions, such as, ‘Will my weight influence my outcome?’”

Researchers examined a cohort of 3,262 patients with colorectal cancer (stages I–III). Computed tomography was used to calculate the amount of visceral and subcutaneous fat in each patient. Visceral adipose tissue was found to be prognostic of mortality in all patients in a reverse L-shaped pattern, meaning that the risk of mortality was flat until 260 cm2 and then increased linearly beyond that point. Subcutaneous adipose tissue was prognostic of mortality in a J-shaped pattern, where risk was higher at the extreme of less than 50 cm2 but lower at intermediate values from 50 to 560 cm2.

Visceral adiposity created a J-shaped pattern of mortality in men in the cohort. However, in female patients, the visceral adiposity was associated with morality in a linear pattern. The relationship between subcutaneous adipose tissue and mortality created an L-shaped pattern in men and a J-shaped pattern in women. Additionally, men with higher amounts of subcutaneous fat seemed to be twice as likely to die within 7 years of diagnosis than men who had little subcutaneous fat. The same appeared to hold true for women, but with regard to visceral fat rather than subcutaneous fat.

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information may be found at

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