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Weight loss might help women beat breast cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Weight loss could help women with breast cancer survival.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer might have a better chance of ensuring the disease doesn't return by making lifestyle changes, Specifically, researchers say they've found a link between being overweight or obese and higher risk that a woman's breast cancer might return.

More studies still needed

Studies have shown there is a link between obesity and cancer of the breast, but there has been little data about how body mass index affects the chances cancer will return after treatment.

The finding was presented at the 8th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-8), March 23, 2012. The link between obesity and being overweight and breast cancer recurrence came from an analysis of 1909 patients enrolled into a study called CALGB 9741, between 1997 and 1999.

Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, USA, and an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues found the relationship between body mass index breast cancer free survival.

In the study, 1.2% of the patients were underweight, 32.6% normal weight, 32.9% overweight and 33.3% obese. Almost half of the women were menopausal (49%) and 65% had estrogen positive tumors.

Dr. Ligibel says the link to being overweight and obesity is urgent because of the increased number of adults who are overweight or obese.

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The study design mandated that overweight and obese women receive chemotherapy doses to account for higher body mass index to ensure breast cancer recurrence in the women wasn’t the result of the treatment.

"Obesity is a modifiable factor, and although there is not yet enough evidence to say with certainty that losing weight or exercising more regularly will decrease the risk of breast cancer recurrence, there are consistent links between lifestyle factors such as diet, weight and physical activity patterns and breast cancer prognosis.

If future studies show that making changes in lifestyle behaviours for women with early breast cancer will improve survival rates, then lifestyle interventions may one day become a standard part of breast cancer care," Dr. Ligibel said in a press release and at the conference.

The findings shows being overweight or obese can contribute to breast cancer recurrence. Obesity is a known risk for developing the disease. Based on the findings, weight loss might help overweight or obese women prevent the chance of recurrence.

The reason women with breast cancer have worse outcomes isn't entirely clear, said Professor David Cameron, from the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, UK) and chair of EBCC-8. He cautions, "..we don’t yet know that losing weight after a breast cancer diagnosis will make a difference.”

Source:European Cancer Organization
"Overweight and obese women at greater risk of breast cancer recurrence"

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