Visceral Adiposity is a Risk Factor for Poor Prognosis in Colorectal Cancer Patients Receiving Adjuvant Chemotherapy

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Studies utilizing body mass index (BMI) have failed to show a consistent relationship between obesity and survival following treatment for colorectal cancer (CRC). Computerized tomography (CT) offers a reliable alternative approach to quantify body adiposity. We hypothesized that visceral obesity may negatively impact survival in CRC patients.

Aims and Methods

A retrospective review of CRC patients who received adjuvant chemotherapy at a single center during the period 2006–2009 identified from a prospectively maintained database. Visceral adiposity was determined by measuring visceral fat area (VFA) on preoperative staging CT. All patients were followed up to study completion or death.


Sixty-two CRC patients with a mean age of 63.2 years received adjuvant chemotherapy and had imaging available for analysis. Thirty-five patients (56.5 %) had node positive disease. Thirty-one patients (50 %) were classified viscerally obese based on staging CT. 85.4 % of the patients completed adjuvant chemotherapy and visceral obesity was not associated with increased toxicity or failure to complete treatment. After a median follow-up of 65.2 months, patients with visceral obesity had a significantly lower overall survival (OS) (54.8 % vs 87.1 %, p = 0.004) and disease-free survival (DFS) (48.4 vs 77.4 %, p = 0.007) compared with patients without visceral obesity. There was no relationship between BMI and survival. Multivariate analysis using Cox proportional hazards model showed that visceral obesity was independently associated with reduced OS (Hazard ratio = 7.0; 95 % CI 2.0–24.6; p = 0.002).


This study shows that visceral obesity increases the likelihood of a poor prognosis in CRC patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy thus underlying the value of lifestyle interventions to minimize visceral obesity in this patient cohort.

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Dr Lee is a UCD Newman Research Fellow funded by an unrestricted research grant from Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Authorship Statement

Guarantor of the article: Glen Doherty.

Chun Seng Lee and David Murphy performed research, collected data, analyzed data, and contributed to writing of the manuscript. Colm McMahon, David Fennelly, Kieran Sheahan, Elizabeth Barnes, and Blathnaid Nolan contributed to the study design, data collection, and verification. Garret Cullen and Hugh Mulcahy contributed to data analysis and statistics and review of the manuscript. Elizabeth Ryan and Glen Doherty contributed to research design, supervision of data collection, and analysis and writing of manuscript.

All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Glen A. Doherty.

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Cite this article

Lee, C.S., Murphy, D.J., McMahon, C. et al. Visceral Adiposity is a Risk Factor for Poor Prognosis in Colorectal Cancer Patients Receiving Adjuvant Chemotherapy. J Gastrointest Canc 46, 243–250 (2015).

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  • Visceral obesity
  • Obesity
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Survival