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Obesity Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Survival

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, March 17, 2008 11:25 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Breast Cancer, Obesity, FDA and Prescription Drugs

Research into surviving cancer shows the worst outcomes among obese women.


  • Clinical Cancer Research press release here
  • American Association for Cancer Research on the study here
  • Injuryboard on Breast Cancer here
  • Injuryboard on Obesity here
  • Calculate your BMI here
  • Q & A on inflammatory breast cancer here


WikiMedia Commons,
Frankfurt statue/ Fat Gretchen/ Peng 

Overweight or obese women who are diagnosed with cancer will likely be frightened by this study released in the March issue of Clinical Cancer Research. 

Obese women tend to have a much more aggressive disease and that means a lower survival rate.

In the study, Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, observed 606 women with advanced breast cancer that had not spread.

They classified the women by body mass index into three groups, normal, overweight and obese.

Obese women had a 56.8 percent survival rate after five years, 56.3 for overweight women and 67.4 for normal weight women.  

Reportedly the fat tissues are to blame for the more aggressive form of the disease and for the likelihood of recurrence.

Fat tissue affects insulin, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and leptin, substances found in higher levels in obese women.

IGF-1 has been previously linked to proliferation of tumors in the breast, prostate and colon.

A Brigham and Women’s’ study finds that milk consumption, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and pregnancy may influence IGF-1, the hormone levels associated with a cancer risk for women.  

And fat tissues may increase inflammatory breast cancer, which already has worse outcomes than non-inflammatory breast cancer. Obese women had a 45 percent likelihood of having inflammatory breast cancer compared to 15 percent in normal weight women and 30 percent among overweight women.   

Inflammatory breast cancer is often diagnosed in younger women and is a rare but aggressive cancer where the breast looks swollen or red. 

Researchers say that doctors should pay special attention to obese or overweight women who have breast cancer because a common treatment for breast cancer, tamoxifen, tends to increase weight.

Studies find that about two-thirds of women over the age of 60 are either overweight or obese, which is also linked to heart disease and diabetes.

More people are falling into that overweight or obese category, either because of a sedentary lifestyle or due to the aging of the baby boomer population.  #

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