Obesity tied to increase risk of breast cancer death in pre-menopausal women

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Obesity is linked to several types of cancer, but a new analysis shows obese women who develop breast cancer before menopause are much more likely to die.

Karen Hackett was 57 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“The first few months you’re in a daze. Afterwards you get into, ‘What do I want to do to be healthy for the rest of my life?’ It was obvious that I should do something about my weight,” she said.

Hackett knew about the relationship of obesity to poor outcomes in breast cancer for women diagnosed after menopause.

A new report followed 80,000 women in 70 clinical trials and concluded that women who were diagnosed before menopause had a 34 percent greater chance of dying if they were obese.

Dr. Clifford Hudis, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, was surprised.

“That’s the novel finding here. We used to think that this association was really seen primarily in older women. Here it’s being seen in young women,” he said.

New guides for doctors and patients detail the growing evidence that obesity can drive tumor growth. The young women at risk had cancers with estrogen receptors – the most common kind – and one possible explanation is that fat cells actually produce small amounts of estrogen that stimulate the cancer.

“Being heavy may create a kind of rich environment for the promotion of growth of cancer,” Dr. Hudis said.

The new report didn’t link obesity to poorer outcomes for post-menopausal patients, but other studies have shown that, and Hackett wants to reduce her risk. So far, she’s lost 30 pounds.

She said, “The thing you worry about the most is recurrence. And this isn’t that difficult to do. Anything you can do to prolong your life is worth doing.”

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