In a recent Oxford study, researchers find unintended weight loss is the second highest risk factor for 4 types of cancer.
The team conducted the first systematic review and meta-analysis to examine all available evidence on the association between weight loss and cancer in primary care.
The results showed that unintended weight loss is the second highest risk factor for colorectal, lung, pancreatic and renal cancers.
It is known that unplanned weight loss may represent cancer.
This study pulls together all the published evidence and demonstrates beyond doubt that it is important in efforts to save lives from cancer.
In the study, the researchers analyzed the findings of 25 studies that included data from more than 11.5 million patients.
They found that weight loss was linked to 10 types of cancer.
Their analysis found that unintended weight loss in people over 60 exceeded the 3% risk threshold for an urgent investigation in NICE guidelines.
In females over 60, the average risk across all sites involved was estimated to be up to 6.7%, and in males up to 14.2%.
The researchers suggest that non-specific symptoms like weight loss are vitally important and medical tests are urgently needed to catch cancer earlier and save lives.
The team now plans to continue the research to understand the most appropriate combination of tests and to give guidance on how much weight loss doctors and patients should worry about.
The lead author is Dr. Brian Nicholson from the University of Oxford. Professor Willie Hamilton, of the University of Exeter, is co-author on the study.
The paper is published in the British Journal of General Practice.
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Source: British Journal of General Practice.