Cancer survivorship, excess body fatness and weight-loss intervention-where are we in 2020?

Type Article

Journal Article


A. S. Anderson; R. M. Martin; A. G. Renehan; J. Cade; E. R. Copson; A. J. Cross; C. Grimmett; L. Keaver; A. King; E. Riboli; C. Shaw; J. M. Saxton

Year of publication



Br J Cancer








Earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments mean that the estimated number of cancer survivors in the United Kingdom is expected to reach 4 million by 2030. However, there is an increasing realisation that excess body fatness (EBF) is likely to influence the quality of cancer survivorship and disease-free survival. For decades, the discussion of weight management in patients with cancer has been dominated by concerns about unintentional weight loss, low body weight and interventions to increase weight, often re-enforced by the existence of the obesity paradox, which indicates that high body weight is associated with survival benefits for some types of cancer. However, observational evidence provides strong grounds for testing the hypothesis that interventions for promoting intentional loss of body fat and maintaining skeletal muscle in overweight and obese cancer survivors would bring important health benefits in terms of survival outcomes and long-term impact on treatment-related side effects. In this paper, we outline the need for studies to improve our understanding of the health benefits of weight-loss interventions, such as hypocaloric healthy-eating plans combined with physical activity. In particular, complex intervention trials that are pragmatically designed are urgently needed to develop effective, clinically practical, evidence-based strategies for reducing EBF and optimising body composition in people living with and beyond common cancers.