POSTED: Monday, August 27, 2012 - 6:50pm
UPDATED: Monday, August 27, 2012 - 7:10pm
EL PASO — Important health news about breast cancer: a new study shows weight is an important risk factor in determining if a woman will suffer a recurrence and losing weight after diagnosis can lead to better outcomes all around.
Breast cancer strikes almost 300,000 woman a year. While cure rates have improved over the last 20 years, increasingly doctors are focusing on a certain group of women who don't fare as well as others.
"There is a clear connection between obesity at the time of a breast cancer diagnosis and an increased risk of recurrence in breast tissue," said Dr. Joseph Sparano.
Dr. Sparano is an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York and is the lead researcher of study which focused on the most common type of breast cancer.
“So we have known for a long time that obesity is associated with an increased risk of cancer, but what this study shows is that the risk is there, even if patients get optimal therapy,” said Dr. Sparano.
Even after ruling out problems like heart disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, being clinically obese, with a body mass index over 30, is an independent risk factor. The fat may cause changes with insulin, estrogen or inflammation and serve as fuel for cancer cells.
The study looked at almost 7000 women with stage one to three breast cancer who required chemotherapy, as part of their treatment.
Women who were obese when diagnosed had a 30 percent higher risk of recurrence and an almost 50 percent higher risk of death than women of normal weight.
"Reducing weight could have an effect in terms of reducing recurrence," said Sparano.
Experts said even a weight loss as little as six pounds can make a difference - in one study, leading to a 25 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence which can be comparable to treatment with chemotherapy.