Breast cancer: Excessive weight gain occurs in 20% of survivors

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Experts say daily physical activity can help women maintain a healthy weight after breast cancer treatment. robert reader/Getty Images
  • Researchers are reporting that almost one in five breast cancer survivors experience weight gain of more than 10% of their body weight.
  • The researchers note that excess weight increases risk of cancer recurrence and also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Experts say there are numerous factors that can contribute to weight gain in breast cancer survivors and women in this group shouldn’t feel shame for weight gain.

Nearly 20% of breast cancer survivors may experience weight gain of more than 10% after their treatment.

That’s according to new research presented this weekend at the Endocrine Society’s ENDO 2024 annual meeting.

In their study, which hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal, researchers reported there are many factors that can contribute to the weight gain after breast cancer treatment.

“Weight gain after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is a common concern among survivors and poses a risk factor for breast cancer recurrence,” Maria Daniela Hurtado Andrade, PhD, the lead author of the research and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, said in a press statement.

“In addition to increasing the risk of breast cancer recurrence, weight gain increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In breast cancer survivors, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death after breast cancer itself,” she added.

The researchers examined a registry of 4,744 survivors of breast cancer. Over a period of six years from breast cancer diagnosis, the weight of the survivors increased an average of 2 pounds. About 18% of the survivors gained more than 10% of their body weight by six years.

Researchers reported that the factors that contributed to the weight gain of 10% of body weight included having an initial lower weight, having hormone-positive breast cancer, having cancer that was more advanced at the time of diagnosis, being a younger age, having mutations to the BRCA2 gene, undergoing chemotherapy and endocrine therapy, and undergoing breast surgery that was more aggressive.

The researchers say being able to identify these factors could improve outcomes for those who survivor breast cancer.

“The variables we found to be associated with excess weight gain could be used as predictors of weight gain in this population,” Hurtado Andrade said.

“Identifying these patients early in the survivorship course will allow us to institute measures to prevent excess weight gain, thereby improving breast cancer and cardiovascular disease outcomes,” she noted. “Our overarching goal is to promote a Healthy longevity in breast cancer survivors.”

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. One in three new cancers in females each year are breast cancer.

Across the life span, the average risk for a woman developing breast cancer in the United States at some stage in her life is roughly 13%.

The five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer is 99%, for regional breast cancer it’s 86%, and for distant breast cancer it is 31%. The five-year survival of all stages combined is 91%.

There are more than 4 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Research suggests that 25% to 30% of people with breast cancer will develop recurrence.

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