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JAMA Oncol. 2017 Dec 1;3(12):e172319. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.2319.

Association of Systemic Inflammation and Sarcopenia With Survival in Nonmetastatic Colorectal Cancer: Results From the C SCANS Study.

Author information

Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, California
Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Department of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California–Berkeley



Systemic inflammation and sarcopenia are easily evaluated, predict mortality in many cancers, and are potentially modifiable. The combination of inflammation and sarcopenia may be able to identify patients with early-stage colorectal cancer (CRC) with poor prognosis.


To examine associations of prediagnostic systemic inflammation with at-diagnosis sarcopenia, and determine whether these factors interact to predict CRC survival, adjusting for age, ethnicity, sex, body mass index, stage, and cancer site.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

A prospective cohort of 2470 Kaiser Permanente patients with stage I to III CRC diagnosed from 2006 through 2011.


Our primary measure of inflammation was the neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (NLR). We averaged NLR in the 24 months before diagnosis (mean count = 3 measures; mean time before diagnosis = 7 mo). The reference group was NLR of less than 3, indicating low or no inflammation.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Using computed tomography scans, we calculated skeletal muscle index (muscle area at the third lumbar vertebra divided by squared height). Sarcopenia was defined as less than 52 cm2/m2 and less than 38 cm2/m2 for normal or overweight men and women, respectively, and less than 54 cm2/m2 and less than 47 cm2/m2 for obese men and women, respectively. The main outcome was death (overall or CRC related).


Among 2470 patients, 1219 (49%) were female; mean (SD) age was 63 (12) years. An NLR of 3 or greater and sarcopenia were common (1133 [46%] and 1078 [44%], respectively). Over a median of 6 years of follow-up, we observed 656 deaths, 357 from CRC. Increasing NLR was associated with sarcopenia in a dose-response manner (compared with NLR < 3, odds ratio, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.10-1.67 for NLR 3 to <5; 1.47; 95% CI, 1.16-1.85 for NLR ≥ 5; P for trend < .001). An NLR of 3 or greater and sarcopenia independently predicted overall (hazard ratio [HR], 1.64; 95% CI, 1.40-1.91 and HR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.10-1.53, respectively) and CRC-related death (HR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.39-2.12 and HR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.13-1.78, respectively). Patients with both sarcopenia and NLR of 3 or greater (vs neither) had double the risk of death, overall (HR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.70-2.65) and CRC related (HR, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.79-3.29).

Conclusions and Relevance:

Prediagnosis inflammation was associated with at-diagnosis sarcopenia. Sarcopenia combined with inflammation nearly doubled risk of death, suggesting that these commonly collected biomarkers could enhance prognostication. A better understanding of how the host inflammatory/immune response influences changes in skeletal muscle may open new therapeutic avenues to improve cancer outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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