Obesity and Cancer: Summary of the Position Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)—Introduction

Written by J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy MD, PhD, FACE

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released a policy statement on initiatives to limit the harmful effects of obesity on cancer, and to prevent obesity-related cancers. Part 1 of this 2-part series presents an introduction to the topic and an overview of the position statement. Part 2 of this series summarizes ASCO’s proposed initiatives to reduce the impact of obesity on cancer.

Obesity is associated to a higher risk of being diagnosed with some cancers, recurrence after treatment, and increased cancer-related mortality in people diagnosed with early-stage disease.1-6 In fact, obesity is projected to soon overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer in the United States.

Studies Link Obesity to Cancer Risk and Poor Treatment Outcomes
Recent studies have demonstrated an association between obesity and the risk for breast cancer, biologically aggressive prostate cancer, colon cancer, as well as other malignancies. Obesity also is linked to a variety of complications related to cancer treatment and outcomes, including:

Research also suggests that a cancer diagnosis may be a teachable moment, meaning that patients may be motivated to adopt risk-reducing or health-protective behaviors.

ASCO Priorities
In it’s first-ever policy statement on cancer and obesity, the American Society of Clinical Oncology outlines 4 priorities:

Part 2 of this series provides more information on these priorities.

“With nearly 3 in 4 Americans having overweight or obesity, obesity has become a tremendous public health challenge that also impacts cancer care and prevention today,” said Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, immediate Past President of ASCO. “Cancer doctors need to play a lead role in reducing obesity’s impact, both in the care of our patients and as advocates for broader action. We can’t allow obesity to undo decades of progress in prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of cancer,” Dr. Hudis said.

June 26, 2015


Ligibel JA, Alfano CM, Courneya KS, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology position statement on obesity and cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32(31):3568-3574. http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/32/31/3568.long. Accessed June 26, 2015.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. New ASCO Policy Statement Addresses Obesity and Cancer. October 1, 2014. http://www.asco.org/press-center/new-asco-policy-statement-addresses-obesity-and-cancer. Accessed June 26, 2015.

1. Chan DS, Vieira AR, Aune D, et al. Body mass index and survival in women with breast cancer-systematic literature review and meta-analysis of 82 follow-up studies. Ann Oncol. 2014;25(10):1901-1914.

2. Efstathiou JA, Bae K, Shipley WU, et al. Obesity and mortality in men with locally advanced prostate cancer: analysis of RTOG 85-31. Cancer. 2007;110(12):2691-2699.

3. Meyerhardt JA, Catalano PJ, Haller DG, et al. Influence of body mass index on outcomes and treatment-related toxicity in patients with colon carcinoma. Cancer. 2003;98(3):484-495.

4. Dignam JJ, Polite BN, Yothers G, et al. Body mass index and outcomes in patients who receive adjuvant chemotherapy for colon cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006;98(22):1647-1654.

5. Butturini AM, Dorey FJ, Lange BJ, et al. Obesity and outcome in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25(15):2063-2069.

6. Lange BJ, Gerbing RB, Feusner J, et al. Mortality in overweight and underweight children with acute myeloid leukemia. JAMA. 2005;293(2):203-211.

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American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO): Initiatives to Reduce the Impact of Obesity on Cancer