Cachexia is a devastating muscle-wasting syndrome that occurs in patients who have chronic diseases. It is most commonly observed in individuals with advanced cancer, presenting in 80% of these patients, and it is one of the primary causes of morbidity and mortality associated with cancer. Additionally, although many people with cachexia show hypermetabolism, the causative role of metabolism in muscle atrophy has been unclear. To understand the molecular basis of cachexia-associated muscle atrophy, it is necessary to develop accurate models of the condition. By using transcriptomics and cytokine profiling of human muscle stem cell-based models and human cancer-induced cachexia models in mice, we found that cachectic cancer cells secreted many inflammatory factors that rapidly led to high levels of fatty acid metabolism and to the activation of a p38 stress-response signature in skeletal muscles, before manifestation of cachectic muscle atrophy occurred. Metabolomics profiling revealed that factors secreted by cachectic cancer cells rapidly induce excessive fatty acid oxidation in human myotubes, which leads to oxidative stress, p38 activation and impaired muscle growth. Pharmacological blockade of fatty acid oxidation not only rescued human myotubes, but also improved muscle mass and body weight in cancer cachexia models in vivo. Therefore, fatty acid-induced oxidative stress could be targeted to prevent cancer-induced cachexia.