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Breast cancer lethal for overweight, obese women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Obesity and breast cancer survival.

Breast cancer and obesity can be a lethal combination for women, find researchers. The chances of surviving the disease are higher for women whose weight is normal before and after cancer diagnosis.

Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, obesity specifically linked to higher mortality

In an investigation of nearly 4,000 breast cancer survivors, researchers found a strong link between dying from estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer for overweight and obese women, but the same link was not found for estrogen receptor-negative cancer.

The findings were presented at the Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.

Lead author, Christina Dieli-Conwright, PhD explains obesity and lower chance of surviving the disease depends on whether breast cancer is hormonally dependent. Overweight or obese women have increased levels of circulating estrogen.

Overweight or obese ups chances of breast cancer death 69 percent

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Obesity for the study was defined as having a body mass index – BMI - of 30 or above. Overweight, was considered having a BMI of 25 to 29 at baseline and at age 18.

Women included in the study were participants of the large California Teachers Study who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 1995 and 2006 - 3,995 women were studied and 262 died of breast cancer.

In addition to weight status, the scientists measured estrogen status of breast cancer to find the link between increased mortality with estrogen receptor positive forms of the disease.

Increased BMI also is considered a risk for developing breast cancer, based on past studies, explains Dieli-Conwright. The new study shows obesity raises the chances a woman with breast cancer will die from estrogen receptor-positive forms of the disease.

Both overweight and obese women were found to have a 69 percent increased chances of dying from diagnosis of estrogen receptor positive forms of breast cancer, compared to women that were normal weight, adding to the disease burden of obesity.

Image credit: Morguefile