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Does Surviving Breast Cancer Lead to Obesity?

sharma-obesity-mammographyWe have long recognised obesity as significant risk factor for post-menopausal breast cancer  but emerging data suggests that surviving cancer may in itself promote weight gain.

Thus, a study by Rebecca Sedjo and colleagues, in a paper published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, notes significant weight gain in 665 overweight and obese women within five years of surviving breast cancer.

The average weight gain over five years was 4.5% with almost half the participants gaining significantly more weight.

Younger women and those with lower BMIs were more likely to gain significant amounts of weight over time.

Pharmacological treatment was also an important predictor of weight gain, with women treated with selective estrogen-receptor modulators twice as likely to gain weight compared to women prescribed aromatase inhibitors.

Clearly, post-diagnosis weight gain is common in breast cancer survivors and is influenced by a complex set of factors including age, ethnicity, weight, smoking status, time elapsed since diagnosis, and endocrine-modulating therapy.

It appears that exploration of effective strategies to prevent this weight gain or provide obesity management strategies to breast cancer survivors are long overdue.

Edmonton, AB


  1. Hi Arya
    I would like to add psychological and emotional stress to the list of predictors of weight gain after being given a cancer diagnosis, or indeed any similarly stressful life experience. Psychological and emotional stress is associated with weight gain through a number of different mechanisms.

    Erik Hemmingsson
    Obesity Center
    Karolinska University Hospital

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  2. so true!
    During and immediately after my breast cancer treatment I gained a significant amount of weight. one of the factors i describe to myself as will power fatigue, having to do so many things to deal with the cancer and deal with this new unknowables about response to treatment, likelihood of recurrence on top of the new fatigue and other post-treatment issues.
    And I’m now in the category of “no evidence of active disease” which is my new life standard for as good as it gets.
    Is anyone doing a clinical trial on this?

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