Their 778-patient study, which appeared this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that five-year survival in obese patients -- those with a body mass index of 30 or higher -- with esophageal cancer was 18 percent, compared to 36 percent in patients of normal weight.
The research is the first to find that obese patients with esophageal cancer have worse outcomes following surgery than patients with a normal weight, says lead investigator, Harry Yoon, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Minnesota.
"Obesity is considered a risk factor in the development of this cancer, which is known to be both highly lethal and increasingly common," he says. "But prior to this study, we did not really understand the impact of obesity in this upper gastrointestinal cancer."
If validated in another study, the findings may change the way some physicians counsel obese patients with this disease, Yoon says.