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Better Nutrition Could Mean Longer Survival for Elderly Mesothelioma Patients

Could eating better improve elderly patient’s chances of surviving malignant pleural mesothelioma? Another new study suggests that it may.

An article in the journal Surgical Oncology found that lung cancer patients who score low on a nutritional status assessment tool called the Geriatric Nutritional Risk Index (GNRI) have worse outcomes after surgery.

The GNRI is a simple tool based on weight and levels of the protein albumin in blood serum. Albumin nourishes the tissues and transports substances like vitamins, hormones, and minerals throughout the body.

A number of previous studies have linked GNRI status to poor outcomes in other conditions including esophageal cancer, chronic limb ischemia, and people on dialysis. The new study is the first to find a link between GNRI and lung surgery outcomes.

Similarities Between Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer

Although malignant mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer are not the same disease, they share many of the same characteristics and are often treated similarly. Both mesothelioma patients and lung cancer patients typically have a combination of treatments including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or surgery.

Unlike lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure and can take decades to develop. As a result, most mesothelioma patients are not diagnosed until they are in their 60s or 70s, when invasive treatments are especially hard on the body.

Pleural mesothelioma patients whose bodies are in less-than-ideal condition because of malnutrition are less likely to bounce back after treatment.

Nutrition and Mesothelioma Survival

The new GNRI study, conducted at Kyushu University, found that giving lung cancer patients the GNRI before their surgery could “identify high-risk patients for postoperative recurrence and cancer-related death.” Patients with lower scores had poorer treatment results and the researchers concluded that the GNRI was a “simple and novel prognostic factor”.

While the new trial did not include mesothelioma patients, other nutritional studies have.

A report published earlier this year by the same university found a correlation between another assessment tool called the Controlling Nutritional Status (CONUT) score and a worse prognosis in mesothelioma patients. That study suggested that CONUT could be helpful in choosing the best candidates for certain mesothelioma treatments.

Eat Better to Live Longer

The bottom line for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones is that eating better strengthens the body and may pay off in better treatment outcomes.

There is ample evidence – both scientific and anecdotal – that a diet rich in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables provides the best support both before and during mesothelioma treatment.

The world’s longest-living mesothelioma survivor, Paul Kraus, is a prime example. Kraus credits his 20+ year survival to his healthy diet, regular exercise, strategic use of supplements, and a positive attitude.


Shoji, F, “Preoperative Geriatric Nutritional Risk Index: A predictive and prognostic factor in patients with pathological stage I non-small cell lung cancer”, December 2017, Surgical Oncology, pp. 483 – 488

Takamori, S, et al, “The Controlling Nutritional Status Score is a Significant Independent Predictor of Poor Prognosis in Patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma”, February 2, 2017, Clinical Lung Cancer, Epub ahead of print

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