Nutritional Status at Diagnosis as Predictor of Survival from Childhood Cancer: A Review of the Literature

Diagnostics (Basel). 2022 Sep 28;12(10):2357. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12102357.


Few studies so far have examined the impact of nutritional status on the survival of children with cancer, with the majority of them focusing on hematological malignancies. We summarized published evidence reporting the association of nutritional status at diagnosis with overall survival (OS), event-free survival (EFS), relapse, and treatment-related toxicity (TRT) in children with cancer. Published studies on children with leukemia, lymphoma, and other solid tumors have shown that both under-nourished and over-nourished children at cancer diagnosis had worse OS and EFS. Particularly, the risk of death and relapse increased by 30-50% among children with leukemia with increased body mass index at diagnosis. Likewise, the risk of TRT was higher among malnourished children with osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Nutritional status seems to play a crucial role in clinical outcomes of children with cancer, thus providing a significant modifiable prognostic tool in childhood cancer management. Future studies with adequate power and longitudinal design are needed to further evaluate the association of nutritional status with childhood cancer outcomes using a more standardized definition to measure nutritional status in this population. The use of new technologies is expected to shed further light on this understudied area and give room to person-targeted intervention strategies.

Keywords: childhood cancer; event-free survival; nutritional status; obesity; overall survival; relapse; review; treatment-related toxicity; undernutrition.

Publication types

  • Review