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Unexplained Weight Loss Is Linked to Cancer

February 8, 2024

According to researchers, individuals who experience a substantial weight loss without any deliberate alterations in diet, exercise, or other aspects of their lifestyle may face an elevated risk of certain cancers, as this sudden drop could potentially serve as an early indicator of the presence of the disease.


The study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that those who spontaneously shed more than 10% of their body weight had a cancer diagnosis rate of approximately 1,362 per 100,000 over a 12-month period. In comparison, the rate of cancer diagnosis among individuals who had not recently experienced unexplained weight loss was reported to be 869 per 100,000.


Researchers also found that other types of cancer, such as hematologic, colorectal, and lung cancers, were more prevalent in individuals who had recently experienced unintentional weight loss. The study further revealed that the risk of cancer was notably higher within the first 12 months following the weight loss compared to the subsequent 24 months. Additionally, breast, genital, urinary, and brain cancers, as well as melanoma, showed no association with weight loss.


Although significant weight loss is often viewed positively as a step toward better health, it can sometimes precede a cancer diagnosis. Therefore, regarding weight as a crucial vital sign may aid doctors in detecting cancer earlier, when treatment is more likely to be successful with available medical interventions.


Individuals experiencing unexplained weight loss are advised to consult their family physician as the initial step. The presence of other symptoms can aid in pinpointing potential causes, as weight loss may be an indicator of digestive diseases like celiac or thyroid issues, as well as cancer, as highlighted in the study. In cases where other illnesses are ruled out, it is crucial for the physician to conduct further investigations.


Missing a cancer diagnosis means both the doctor and patient lose the opportunity for early detection and treatment, a critical factor in addressing all types of cancers. Therefore, prompt and thorough evaluation is essential in cases of unexplained weight loss to ensure timely intervention.