The effects of obesity and obesity-related conditions on colorectal cancer prognosis

Cancer Control. 2010 Jan;17(1):52-7. doi: 10.1177/107327481001700107.


Background: Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States among men and women combined. Refinements in screening, staging, and treatment strategies have improved survival from this disease, with over 65% of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer surviving over 5 years after diagnosis. In the prognosis of colorectal cancer, clinicopathological factors are important. However, modifiable prognostic factors are emerging as significant contributors to cancer outcomes, including obesity and obesity-related inflammation and metabolic conditions.

Methods: This report reviews the literature on obesity and obesity-related inflammation and metabolic disturbances and colorectal cancer outcomes (recurrence, disease-free survival, and/or mortality). A PubMed search was conducted of all English-language papers published between August 2003 and 2009 and cited in MEDLINE.

Results: Primary research papers were reviewed for colorectal cancer outcomes related to obesity, inflammation, or metabolic conditions. An association between body size and colorectal cancer recurrence and possibly survival was found; however, reports have been inconsistent. These inconsistent findings may be due to the complex interaction between adiposity, physical inactivity, and dietary intake. Circulating prognostic markers such as C-reactive protein, insulin-like growth factor, and insulin, alone or in combination, have been associated with prognosis in observational studies and should be evaluated in randomized trials and considered for incorporation into surveillance.

Conclusions: The literature suggests that obesity and obesity-related inflammation and metabolic conditions contribute to the prognosis of colorectal cancer; however, comprehensive large scale trials are needed. Interventions to reduce weight and control inflammation and metabolic conditions, such as diabetes, need to be evaluated and rapidly translated to behavior guidelines for patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Prognosis