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Obesity May Increase the Risk of Progression

Posted 6/30/2014

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  In all honesty, I worried a bit about choosing this study for today's entry. Women who are overweight already know it, already worry about it, and likely are trying to lose weight. Many to most women gain some weight (usually in the 5 to 10 pound range) while going through breast cancer treatment; this is shocking as most people associate weight loss, not gain, with cancer. Women with ER positive breast cancers then sometimes gain a bit more weight while taking either tamoxifen or one of the AIs. In this situation, holding one's wight stable is considered a huge success, let alone trying to lose pounds.

  Right now I am working with several women who identify their weight as a larger daily concern than their cancer. They are trying hard with exercise and diet to lose pounds, and finding it very, very difficult. As a comment: in my experience, more women have successfully lost weight with Weight Watchers than any other specific program.

  Today's study from MD Anderson in Houston suggests that obesity may increase the risk of progression or recurrence. Note that this is relevant only for women who have ER positive cancers. The explanation for that is that estrogen lurks in fat cells. Ergo, if you have more fat cells, you have more potential hideaways for estrogen.

  Here is the beginning of the study:

Study points to higher risk of breast cancer progression in obese women

Scientists have long believed that obese women who developed estrogen-positive (ER+) breast cancer were at higher risk for death from the illness than lean women with the same diagnosis. Close to 75 percent of all breast cancers are estrogen receptor-positive and will proliferate in response to the female hormone estrogen. A new study comparing obese mice with breast cancer and biological changes in breast cancer samples from patients appears to indicate the tie between obesity and higher risk for death.  By analyzing biopsy samples from 137 ER+ breast cancer patients before they received treatment, and developing an "obese" transgenic mouse model to study how tumors begin and grow, scientists at

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were able to show evidence for how obesity may cause some women to develop ER+ breast cancer more quickly – and with more deadly results. 

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