Can building muscle help fight off cancer?

Lifting weights may help prevent cancer

If you need one more reason to start that New Years Resolution of heading back to the gym and working out, the NY Times had a nice commentary about a 2008 study in the Lancet Oncology journal. In this study, the group of cancer patients with less muscle mass had poorer outcomes both during and after their cancer treatment.

The study, which was published in the July 2008 issue of Lancet Oncology  by researchers at the University of Alberta, looked at the difference in total body fat-free mass in obese cancer patients using a CT scanner. The interesting point not picked up in the NY Times article has to do with the toxicity of chemotherapy treatments since the total body fat-free mass is supposed to determine distribution at toxicity of the chemotherapy. However, many drugs are dosed using a body surface area (BSA) calculation that dates back to a 1916 medical study.

Granted that there are variations of the body surface area formula that have been “improved” upon since then, but this study also suggests that there is not a good correlation in obese cancer patients between their body surface area and their fat-free mass due to the loss of muscle mass in some.