Lifestyle & Belief

Study ties obesity to breast cancer reoccurrence, death


Seventeen year-old Marissa Hamilton stands on a scale during her weekly weigh-in at the Wellspring Academy in Reedley, California, a special school that helps teens and college level students lose weight along with academic courses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children in the US ages 6-19 years are overweight or obese, three times as many since 1980.


Justin Sullivan

Medical professionals already know the link is strong between obesity and breast cancer, but a new study out Monday shows that obese breast cancer patients are more likely to have their cancer return, reports CBS News.

Cancer patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above are also more likely to die from the disease than patients of a normal weight. 

Lead researcher Dr. Joseph Sparano, associate chairman of medical oncology at the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in the Bronx, New York, told Reuters that the study reinforced the connection between breast cancer and weight. 

"Obesity seemed to carry a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence and death - even in women who were healthy at the time that they were diagnosed, and despite the fact that they received the best available chemotherapy and hormone therapy," he said.

Researchers found that higher a woman's BMI, the higher her risk of developing breast cancer again after treatment, even if she received the best medical treatment, reports ABC News.

The study found that, compared to normal weight women, obese women were 40 percent more likely to have a breast cancer recurrence over the study period and 69 percent more likely to die, reports Reuters. 

Reuters reports part of the reason for the higher rates of reoccurring cancer could be because certain hormones that are linked to body weight may also fuel tumor growth in the most common form of the disease, known as estrogen receptor-positive cancer.

The study also showed an increased risk of cancer reoccurrence for women who were not obese but were simply overweight. 

Gail Brown, 65, told CBS she lost 30 pounds after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. 

"The take home message for women with breast cancer is that paying attention to diet, exercise and weight is important, and this can have not only a short term, but a long lasting effect," Brown said.