Obese women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have more aggressive disease and lower survival rates, according to a study released in the March issue of Clinical Cancer Research.
“We are learning that the fat tissue may increase inflammation which leads to more aggressive disease,” said Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Breast Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The researchers found that the risk of cancer recurrence was also higher in obese or overweight women. “Obesity goes far beyond just how a person looks or physical strain from carrying around extra weight,” said Dr. Cristofanilli. “Health care professionals should pay particular attention to overweight patients.”

Previous studies have also shown that obesity at the time of breast cancer diagnosis negatively affects survival. Obesity may increase breast cancer risks by affecting levels of insulin, insulin-like growth factor, and leptin, which are substances found in higher levels in obese women. Recent studies confirm that almost two out of three women in the U.S. over the age of 60 are either overweight or obese. Experts worry that the obesity epidemic will lead to a dramatic rise in breast cancers among postmenopausal women.
Obesity may also reflect other factors, such as poor nutrition and lower physical activity, that are also associated with increased risk of disease. Breast cancer isn’t the only disease that is linked with obesity. Diseases that kill both men and women like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other cancers such as colon cancer, endometrial cancer and kidney cancer are more common in people who are obese.

Source: American Association for Cancer Research