You may gain weight during and after treatment for breast cancer. Excess weight may also raise your risk for breast cancer recurrence following treatment.
When receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, many people have a long list of questions about why, how, and what’s next.
One thing they may not be thinking about is whether they will gain weight as a result of having breast cancer.
Research suggests that many women do gain weight during and after treatment. Weight gain may also increase the risk of cancer recurrence. This article examines why researchers believe this occurs.
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points in this article is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “female” and “women.” Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and findings.
Researchers believe it’s common for people with breast cancer to gain some weight after receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer. According to a 2017 study, most people gain weight during and after treatment, and the reasons may be “multifactorial.”
For example, chemotherapy
Some women may also experience fatigue during treatment that limits their motivation and ability to exercise regularly or be more physically active. Chemotherapy may also affect a person’s metabolic rate.
How much weight do women typically gain?
The specific amount of weight gain may vary. For example, a
Weight gain can have a negative impact on breast cancer outcomes.
In addition to its effects on prognosis, overweight and obesity can
Additionally, someone’s risk of breast cancer-related death also increases if they gain weight during or after breast cancer treatment, per the same study.
However, research is ongoing. A
While more research is needed, researchers suggest that the information may be useful in influencing future research on targeted treatment strategies.
Your doctor can talk with you about strategies to reduce or minimize weight gain during and after treatment. That may include some lifestyle changes, such as changes to your diet or the addition of a regular exercise routine.
Is BMI an accurate measurement of overweight and obesity?
Though BMI can be a useful starting point, it
Fat cells, or adipose tissue, produce excess amounts of the hormone estrogen. When you have obesity or are overweight, you have an even greater number of fat cells. That fat tissue produces even more estrogen, which can fuel the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers, as well as endometrial, ovarian, and other cancers.
Women who have obesity or are overweight are also more likely to have higher levels of the hormone insulin. The
Other potential risk factors for breast cancer include:
- drinking alcohol
- being sedentary
- a first-degree relative with breast cancer
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations
- certain other genetic mutations
- dense breast tissue
- certain benign breast conditions, such as proliferative lesions with atypia and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
- early menstruation
- a later start to menopause
- previous radiation to the chest
According to the
Some kinds of hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms may also carry an increased risk. If this is a treatment option for you, you should discuss the pros and cons with your doctor when making a decision.
Other cancers linked to weight gain
There’s no guarantee that you will gain weight if you begin treatment for breast cancer. But many people do.
If you’re concerned about the potential effects of extra weight on your physical and mental health, talk with your cancer care team. They may be able to recommend lifestyle modifications that work with your treatment plan and help you minimize potential weight gain during breast cancer treatment.