Excess Weight Increases the Chances of a Benign Blood Disorder to Progress into Cancer, Suggests New Findings

Excess Weight Increases the Chances of a Benign Blood Disorder to Progress into Cancer, Suggests New Findings

A benevolent blood disorder can progress into cancer if you are obese, suggests new findings.

According to new research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, led by Su-Hsin Chang, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Public Health Sciences at Washington University, obese and overweight patients suffering from benign blood disorder are at a greater risk of developing cancer.

“Based on our finding that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for multiple myeloma in MGUS patients, and since extra weight is a modifiable risk factor, we hope that our results will encourage intervention strategies to prevent the progression of this condition to multiple myeloma as soon as MGUS is diagnosed,” Chang said.

The Research Premise

7,878 patients, most of which were men, were asked to enter the trial studies. All of these patients had been diagnosed with MGUS. The trial ran for 10 years and 2 months, from October 1999 to December 2009. Out of these 7,878 patients, 33.8% were obese and 39.8% of them were overweight. The premise of the research was to track whether the patients developed multiple myeloma or not.

The findings of the research concluded that 4.3% out of those 33.8%, and 4.6% of those 39.8% overweight patients developed multiple myeloma, as compared to the 3.5% of patients with a normal weight. This difference in percentage ratios proved that overweight and obese patients had a more likely chance of being diagnosed with cancer that started as a blood disorder. Statistically speaking, overweight and obese people showed 55% and 95% higher threats of progression to multiple myeloma than that of normal weight MGUS patients respectively.

Understanding MGUS

Being obese or overweight has increased the risks of people having multiple myeloma, a type of cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow and blood, a disease which usually people above the age of 60 develop. This generally leads to the development of a blood disorder, which medical experts refer to as Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). In MGUS, the abnormal plasma cells multiple and produce copies of M protein – an antibody whose levels, when elevated, causes MGUS.

One of the biggest hurdles is the identification of the disease at the right time is that since it doesn’t show any significant symptoms or does not raise any red flag, it often goes undiagnosed and thus, untreated until it has progressed into cancer, which has no cure till date. “The diagnosis is usually by accident, often driven by tests performed for the diagnosis or management of other conditions,” told Chang.

Chang also claims that, “But our findings show that obesity can now be defined as a risk factor for developing multiple myeloma through this condition. For patients diagnosed with MGUS, maintaining a healthy weight may be a way to prevent the progression to multiple myeloma, if further confirmed by clinical trials.”

Progress towards a Better Future

Even though many more years of research will be required to fully understand the correlation, the findings of the research have paved a way for progress. Today, multiple myeloma has become the 3rd most common type of blood cancer, with an estimated 30,330 new cases having been registered in 2016 alone, and 12,650 deaths attributed to it. Chang concluded that, “Although our study does not directly suggest screening for MGUS, regular check-ups can help physicians monitor whether MGUS is progressing to other disorders, including multiple myeloma.”

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