Excess weight linked to increased risk of blood cancer
Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of benign blood disorders becoming cancerous, according to a new US study.
Excess weight has long been linked to an increased risk of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the blood and bone marrow.
Multiple myeloma is preceded by a blood disorder called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).
This is a precancerous condition that doesn’t cause symptoms and often goes undiagnosed.
Weight plays vital part
The new study by the Washington University School of Medicine shows obesity is a risk factor for developing multiple myeloma through this condition.
If the results are confirmed by clinical trials, then it’s hoped weight control programmes could be used to prevent MGUS becoming multiple myeloma, says study author Su-Hsin Chang.
The researchers looked at data from 7,878 patients –predominately men – diagnosed with MGUS between 1999 and 2009.
They found that 4.6% of overweight patients and 4.3% of obese patients developed multiple myeloma, compared with 3.5% of people at normal weight – a difference the research team classed as ‘statistically significant’.
Hard to diagnose
MGUS is usually diagnosed by accident when a patient is being tested for other conditions.
While the research team isn’t suggesting a screening programme for MGUS, it does believe regular check-ups can help physicians monitor whether MGUS is progressing to other disorders.
There are around 5,500 new cases of multiple myeloma every year in the UK, with 10-year survival rates relatively low at 33%, though the rates have improved considerably in recent years.
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