To investigate the relationship between survival and malnutrition at the time of diagnosis among children treated for cancer in two developing countries.
Patients and Methods
We studied 443 children treated for cancer between 1995 and 1998 at two centers in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Recife, Brazil. Median age at diagnosis was 4.9 years; 283 children had leukemia and 160 had solid tumors. Z-scores were calculated for weight for age (WAZ), height for age (HAZ), and weight for height (WHZ) at diagnosis. Z scores <−2 indicated malnutrition. Patients were also stratified by low-risk disease (solid tumors: stage I, stage II, or localized; acute lymphocytic leukemia: white blood cell count <25,000/μL, no central nervous system involvement, no mediastinal mass and age >1 and <10 yrs) and high-risk disease (all other patients, including those with acute or chronic myelocytic leukemia).
Z-scores indicated malnutrition in 23.5% (WAZ), 22.8% (HAZ), and 15.7% (WHZ) of patients. Z-score was not significantly related to overall survival rates, to survival rates analyzed by type of malignancy or risk status, or to survival rates at the end of the first month of treatment.
We found no relationship between nutritional status and survival in these patients. This implies that future protocols for use in developing countries can be designed to provide optimal treatment intensity despite the high incidence of malnutrition.