Breast Cancer Awareness efforts generally focus on preventative measures for healthy women, early screening, and fundraising, but it’s just as important to emphasize ways of preventing recurrence in women who have survived the disease.
Studies have linked higher estrogen levels in the body to breast cancer in women, and excess weight plays a role in elevating the hormone.
“Overweight women have larger breasts,” Houston-based surgeon, Dr. Duc Vuong, states bluntly. “These women have more exposure to estrogen, which we think increases their risk of several different cancers, including breast and uterine cancer.”
Dr. Susan Love, president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and former breast-cancer surgeon, says there may be higher risks for recurrence in pre-menopausal, obese breast cancer survivors, but post-menopausal women can also be vulnerable.
“We do not know exactly why, but one hypothesis is that fat is capable of making estrogen post-menopausally,” says Love.
Losing weight can be difficult even under the best of circumstances, but the physical and psychological toll of battling cancer can make weight loss even harder. Fatigue and depression are common obstacles, and even though many women lose weight as a result of cancer treatment, some medications can cause weight gain.
Empowerment, says Dr. Love, is key. Although the fear of recurrence may always remain in the minds of survivors, taking steps towards achieving healthy weight loss can give women a sense of control and inner strength.
For related reading, see our blog post Study Show Links between Breast Cancer and Diabetes.