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Sao Paulo Med J. 2005 Nov 3;123(6):277-81. Epub 2006 Jan 20.

High prevalence of malnutrition among patients with solid non-hematological tumors as found by using skinfold and circumference measurements.

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Department of Pediatrics, Instituto de Oncologia Pediátrica, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Rue Botucato 743, CEP 04023-062 São Paulo, SP, Brazil.



Malnutrition in cancer patients has many causes. Nutritional status is usually assessed from weight/height indices. These present limitations for the nutritional assessment of cancer patients: their weights include tumor mass, and lean mass changes are not reflected in weight/height indices. The objective was to evaluate differences between two anthropometric methods and compare deficits, in non-hematological tumor patients and hematological disease patients.


Cross-sectional study at Instituto de Oncologia Pediátrica, Universidade Federal de São Paulo.


Children and adolescents were evaluated between March 1998 and January 2000. Traditional anthropometric measurements were obtained in the first month of treatment (induction therapy), by weight-for-height (W/H) using z-scores index for children and body mass index (BMI) for adolescents. Body composition evaluations consisted of specific anthropometric measurements: triceps skinfold thickness (TSFT), mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and arm muscle circumference (AMC). Data were analyzed to compare nutritional assessment methods for diagnosing malnutrition prevalence. The chi-squared test was used for comparative analyses between tumor patients and hematological disease patients.


Analysis was done on 127 patients with complete data. Higher percentages of deficits were found among tumor patients, by W/H z-scores or BMI and by MUAC and AMC. Higher percentages of deficits were shown by TSFT (40.2%) and MUAC (35.4%) than by W/H z-scores or BMI (18.9%).


Non-hematological tumor patients presented higher malnutrition prevalence than did hematological disease patients. Body composition measurements by TSFT and MUAC detected more patients with malnutrition than did W/H or BMI.

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