A new study, published online in the American Cancer Society Journal on Monday, shows that women who are overweight when diagnosed with the most common form of breast cancer have both a higher rate of the disease recurring and a significantly higher risk of death from the disease. The study was conducted by several institutions, including New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, a part of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the UPMC Cancer Center.
Clinical trials were led by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, part of the EGOC-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, and were comprised of 6,885 women with stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who were receiving standard chemotherapy. Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer accounts for approximately two-thirds of all breast cancers worldwide. The women were followed for an 8 year time period. All of the participants had participated in 3 National Cancer Institute-sponsored treatment trials. Women who were overweight or obese and receiving chemotherapy and hormone therapy were found to have a 30 percent higher risk of recurrence and a 50 percent higher risk of death when compared to women of normal weight who had less common and more aggressive forms of breast cancer.
The researcher’s findings were based upon the body mass index, BMI, of the participants. Those with a BMI of 25 to 25.9 were considered to be overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. The study showed that a higher BMI in study participants resulted in poor outcomes for recurrence and death from the disease. Of the 6,885 participants, 695 with a high BMI died from the disease.
Doctor Nancy Davidson, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center and one of the lead researchers, said, ” There’s no question for breast cancer, especially involving post-menopausal women, that obesity is an important risk factor and increases the risk of getting breast cancer in the first place. The outcomes are not quite as good for women who are overweight or obese with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, as compared with those with a normal BMI.” She continued, “We want patients to realize they don’t have to understand every bit of this to take advantage of the knowledge. This is something you can do yourself to improve your well-being, and it’s good for health. So, it’s important to pursue it. Survivors can take control”.
Over the next weeks, we’ll be taking a close look at overweight and obesity, the health risks they present for women of all ages, and will compare different approaches to achieving realistic, healthy weight loss goals. As always, before beginning any weight loss program, see your healthcare professional and partner with him or her in choosing one that is best for your overall good health.