Muscular Strength Can Optimize Survival Outcomes in Certain Cancer Patients

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IPCS has been a strong proponent of maintaining a healthy muscle mass not only to prevent soft tissue injuries but to prevent costly medical claims as well.

The Journal of American Medical Association – Oncology, published on April 5, 2018, has presented even more critical information on the importance of maintaining a healthy and strong muscle mass. The article is written by Caan, BJ and others entitled, “Association of Muscle and Adiposity Measured by Computed Tomography with Survival in Patients with Nonmetastatic Breast Cancer”.

In this study, approximately 3,300 females with nonmetastatic breast cancer were tracked over a 6-year period. Caan measured the amount of muscle mass (sarcopenia vs non-sarcopenic), muscle quality and fatness (below the skin, within muscle, visceral-around internal organs) and several other body compositions including body mass index (BMI).


Women who were non-sarcopenic (high amount of muscle mass) with the lowest total fatness (in the bottom one-third ranking for fatness), had a 41% increase in survivability when compared to women who were sarcopenic (low levels of muscle mass) and in the highest one-third for fatness. Measures found that muscle quality was not a factor.

Furthermore, women with a body mass index of 35 and higher and sarcopenic, were at increased risk of mortality. An association with BMI’s less than 35 and being sarcopenic did not exist.


  1. Women with nonmetastatic breast cancer could benefit from treatment involving strength training.
  2. As a deterrent to nonmetastatic breast cancer, and perhaps other kinds of cancers (supported by current research), maintaining a strong and healthy muscle mass through employee health plans decreases a person’s risk of cancer and may increase the survivability of individuals who may get cancer.
  3. BMI certainly has a role in measuring body size and fatness but perhaps the greater emphasis should be placed on individuals with a BMI of 35 and greater.

Musculo-Skeletal Wellness

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The health of a worker’s musculo-skeletal system is not getting any better. In fact it is getting worse with no signs of improvement.

Mary Catherine Person, President of Healthscope Benefits, a large privately held TPA considers musculo-skeletal health as one of their top three health issues regarding cost and frequency of claims.

Recently, Jennifer Saddy, Director, Workers Compensation, Corporate Insurance & Risk Management for American Airlines has stated in December 2017 that shoulder injuries are now American Airlines number one injury in terms of frequency and cost of claim. The shoulder claim has replaced the low back claim as their number one claim.

Why is this? IPCS has reported that compared to 10 years ago the absolute shoulder strength of the new hire worker is 18% weaker today and knee strength is 23% weaker. Ironically, the luggage carried by passengers today does not weigh 20% less.

Wellness programs, to be effective, must also include musculo-skeletel wellness. Biometric screens to objectively evaluate and track muscular strength, based on a substantial database to correlate the strength to risk for disease and injury, is critical.

Maintaining a healthy muscle mass will reduce the frequency and cost of medical and injury claims.