Muscle mass and fatigue in men with advanced prostate cancer


A newly published study from a Dutch research group has suggested that higher muscle mass is associated with less risk for fatigue in men with advanced prostate cancer.

We have long known that cancer-related fatigue (CRF) affects the quality of life and the activity levels of patients with cancer. What Neefjes et al. have now been able to show is that men (but not women) with advanced forms of cancer may be able to reduce cancer-related fatigue by exercise interventions aiming at an increased muscle mass. The full text of this paper is available on line.

They studied report data from 233/302 patients with advanced cancer who were starting palliative chemotherapy for lung, colorectal, breast, or prostate cancer and who completed enough portions of the study to be eligible for assessment. They measured the skeletal muscle index (SMI) and fatigue levels over time for these 233 patients and were able to show that:

  • The average (median) fatigue score was 36 (interquartile range 26 to 44).
  • A higher SMI was significantly associated with less CRF for men, but not for women.

Now what this study has not yet shown is whether there is a real reduction in cancer-related fatigue in men who are able to increase their muscle mass though specific types of exercise. That remains to be proven.

It should also be noted that the authors were careful to point out a number of limitations that are important to this study and that could restrict the meaningfulness of their findings to certain subsets of patients.

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