Obesity and Alcohol Linked to Negative Outcomes in Women with Breast Cancer

Women diagnosed with breast cancer could lower their risk of recurrence by cutting back on alcohol consumption, a new analysis suggests. Obesity itself is known to raise the risk of breast cancer, but a study described Thursday suggests that, after diagnosis, women who are overweight may fare worse than their normal-weight peers.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer could lower their risk of recurrence by cutting back on alcohol consumption, a new analysis suggests. While numerous studies have found that drinking alcohol can raise the risk of breast cancer, the new data is one of the first large studies to explore the impact of alcohol consumption after diagnosis. Researchers from Kaiser Permanente followed nearly 1,900 women for two years after their diagnosis with breast cancer, asking them to fill out questionnaires describing their eating and lifestyle choices. In San Antonio, researchers reported that 349 women experienced a return of their cancer. The risk of recurrence was about 34 percent higher among women who drank more than about a half a drink per day, or three to four alcoholic drinks per week. The effect was greatest for postmenopausal women and women who were overweight or obese.

Obesity itself is known to raise the risk of breast cancer, but a study described Thursday suggests that, after diagnosis, women who are overweight may fare worse than their normal-weight peers. Researchers from the Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Group in Copenhagen compared the prognosis of women with the lowest levels of body mass index (less than 25) to women with a BMI greater than 30. For the first 10 years after diagnosis, body weight made no significant difference in outcomes. After the 10-year mark, however, obese women had as much as a 38 percent higher risk of death. The study data also suggested that chemotherapy does not work as well in obese women, and that their tumors were more likely to spread to distant sites.

This article is a part of CURE’s 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium coverage. To read more articles from SABCS 2009, visit sabcs2009.curetoday.com.