We used a sensitive whole body counter which measures potassium-40 (40K) to determine total body potassium and to estimate body cell mass (BCM) in 104 previously untreated patients with upper gastrointestinal malignancies, 233 normal volunteers, and 18 patients with anorexia nervosa. BCM was greater in normal males than in females. In both normal males and females, the BCM tended to decrease with age, both as an absolute measure and as a percentage of body weight. Anorexia nervosa patients experienced marked weight loss (30.5%), and had significant depletion of absolute BCM, but exhibited relative sparing of BCM as indicated by a rise in BCM as a percentage of body weight. This may reflect a normal adaptation and predominant fat utilization in chronic malnutrition. The cancer patients, on the other hand, had significant weight loss (12.7% for females, 13.9% for males) and demonstrated a proportional decline in BCM, with no change in BCM as a percentage of body weight. These findings support the contention that, in the cancer-bearing patient, weight loss consists of a significant depletion of both fat and BCM. The challenge to the clinicians caring for cancer patients is repletion of this supremely functional body compartment.
View details for Web of Science ID A1987H350500002
View details for PubMedID 3474427