Study: High BMI Linked to Worse Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Outcomes

According to a story from, a recent study found that elevated body-mass index (BMI) was associated with worse outcomes for people living with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, with this study specifically focusing on teen and young adult age groups. In the United States, obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent, with close to 40% being affected. It can carry major health implications alongside it.

About Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of blood cancer. The cells affected by this type of cancer are called lymphoblasts, which are a form of white blood cell. This cancer is usually caused when a lymphoblast attains several mutations that affect the development of these blood cells. A number of different genetic mutations have been linked to the disease, but only when several appear at once does the risk for this cancer begin to rise. Other risk factors include radiation, certain types of chemotherapy, and a high birth weight. Symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia include weakness, fatigue, bone and joint pain, heavy bruising, anemia, loss of weight and appetite, swelling in the legs and abdomen, and testicular enlargement. Treatment may include chemo, radiation, biological therapy, and immunotherapy. Five-year survival rate is poor for adults at just 35 percent. To learn more about acute lymphoblastic leukemia, click here.

About the Research

This study included 388 patients ranging in age from 15 to 50 years. The mean age of the group was 24 years. These patients were receiving treatment between 2008 and 2021. 53.3% of the participants had BMIs that were in the ‘normal’ range, and 46.6% had elevated BMIs, which classified them as overweight or obese. 

Patients with elevated BMI experienced worse non-relapse mortality (11.7% vs 2.8%), reduced event-free survival (63% vs 77% after four years), and reduced overall survival (64% vs 83%). Interestingly, the study also found that overall survival was relatively consistent across 15–29-year-olds (83%) and 30–50-year-olds (85%) with BMI in the ‘normal’ range. This is a remarkable finding since old age is regarded as a major adverse factor in outcomes.

The scientists concluded that the principal factor behind worse outcomes within the study population was non-relapse mortality. Overall, the researchers found that elevated BMI was associated with worse outcomes, including overall survival, treatment toxicity, and non-relapse mortality.

Check out the study text here.


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