Poorer Psychosocial Health Associated with Obesity in Cancer Care

Study finds association between obesity and a greater burden of symptoms and distress among patients with breast or prostate cancer.

Obesity was linked to poorer psychosocial health among older adults diagnosed with breast cancer or prostate cancer in a new study published in Psycho-Oncology; however, the association was not seen in older patients with colon cancer.

An association between obesity and cancer has been well established, yet there is a great need to examine the psychosocial implications of obesity in patients with cancer during treatment and survivorship. Researchers therefore sought to examine the effect of weight status on psychosocial outcomes among patients diagnosed with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.

The study included 4159 patients over the age of 55 years who were diagnosed with postmenopausal breast (52.2%), prostate (38.7%), or colon cancer (9.1%). Prior to treatment, patients were screened for problem-related distress, using a list of 33 items.

Among the participants, obesity was associated with a greater burden of symptoms and with experiences of distress among patients with breast or prostate cancer. Few weight-based differences were observed among patients with colon cancer, but this group tended to have significant symptoms and distress regardless of a patient’s weight.

Across all patients, the most frequent problems were related to sleeping, finances, anxiety, pain, depression, managing emotions, and fear of medical procedures.

The study’s findings reveal the impact of obesity in cancer care and provide guidance in the development and implementation of supportive care services for at-risk populations, according to the authors.


  • Philip E, Bergerot C, Clark K, et al. Obesity and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Cancer Patients and Survivors. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.5181. Published September 4, 2019. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/pon.5181