By Viktoriya Zabigaylo & Dr. Orest Szczurko
Body fat and muscle distribution have been shown to be associated with poorer survival outcomes and recurrence rates in patients with colon cancer.
A study conducted by Fleming et al. (2021) showed that a higher ratio of visceral fat to total body fat was associated with cancer mortality within 5 years post-surgery. In addition, low skeletal muscle area was associated with a higher colon cancer recurrence rate within 5 years post-surgery. Inflammation also proved to play a role, as the inflammatory markers IL-6 and CRP (known to promote survival of cancer cells and metastatic changes) were higher in these individuals.
Other research has identified visceral fat as a risk factor for various chronic conditions including breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes and other metabolic syndromes.
Therefore obesity is one factor that needs to be managed as an approach to helping patients with colon cancer. However, while BMI is a commonly used tool for measuring body mass, it is does not differentiate between visceral fat, subcutaneous fat or skeletal muscle. Since it only uses weight and height to evaluate body mass, it is not a reliable assessment of body fat composition. This is important because while visceral fat has been associated with harmful disease outcomes, subcutaneous fat has actually been shown to increase anti-inflammatory markers (IL-2 and IL-10). Waist-to-hip ratio is a more reliable measurement in assessing visceral fat, and therefore determining the risk of colon cancer recurrence or mortality.
Naturopathic approaches may help in reducing inflammation and addressing weight loss. This includes dietary strategies focusing on an anti-inflammatory approach, following the Mediterranean diet, practicing sleep hygiene and regular exercise.