Abdominal adipose tissue radiodensity is associated with survival after colorectal cancer

Elizabeth M. Cespedes Feliciano, Renate M. Winkels*, Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, Carla M. Prado, Lydia A. Afman, Bette J. Caan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Adipose tissue radiodensity may have prognostic importance for colorectal cancer (CRC) survival. Lower radiodensity is indicative of larger adipocytes, while higher radiodensity may represent adipocyte atrophy, inflammation, or edema. Objectives: We investigated associations of adipose tissue radiodensity and longitudinal changes in adipose tissue radiodensity with mortality among patients with nonmetastatic CRC. Methods: In 3023 patients with stage I-III CRC, radiodensities of visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) were quantified from diagnostic computed tomography (CT) images. There were 1775 patients with follow-up images available. Cox proportional hazards models and restricted cubic splines were used to examine associations of at-diagnosis values and of longitudinal changes in VAT and SAT radiodensities with risks of death after adjusting for potential confounders, including body size and comorbidities. Results: VAT and SAT radiodensities were linearly associated with all-cause mortality: The HRs for death per SD increase were 1.21 (95% CI, 1.11-1.32) for VAT radiodensity and 1.18 (95% CI, 1.11-1.26) for SAT radiodensity. Changes in adipose tissue radiodensity had curvilinear associations with risks of death. The HR for an increase in VAT radiodensity of at least 1 SD was 1.53 (95% CI, 1.23-1.90), while the HR for a decrease of at least 1 SD was nonsignificant at 1.11 (95% CI, 0.84-1.47) compared with maintaining radiodensity within 1 SD of baseline. Similarly, increases (HR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.48-2.40) but not decreases (HR, 1.20; 95% CI, 0.94-1.54) in SAT radiodensity significantly increased the risk of death compared with no change in radiodensity. Conclusions: In patients with nonmetastatic CRC, adipose tissue radiodensity is a novel risk factor for total mortality that is independent of BMI and changes in body weight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1917-1924
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • adipose tissue
  • colorectal cancer
  • mortality
  • prognosis
  • radiodensity


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