Breast Cancer and Weight Changes

Weight gain has become a common side kick of breast cancer, a major cause of death among women around the world. Find out the relation between breast cancer and changes in weight.

Arka Roy Chowdhury
MiscellaneousWritten by: Arka Roy ChowdhuryPublished at: Oct 25, 2012Updated at: Oct 30, 2012
Breast Cancer and Weight Changes

Breast Cancer and Weight Changes

Breast cancer is a medical condition that hits a woman in her place of pride. With weight gain being a side-effect of this disease as a result the entire phase becomes even more distressing. It has been found that women diagnosed with breast cancer are at a greater risk of gaining weight. While the exact cause for this is relatively unknown, women often complain of weight gain when going through cancer treatment.


[Read: Types of Breast Cancer Treatment]


What Causes Weight Gain?


Premature menopause caused by chemotherapy: Menopause makes it easy for the body to put on weight. Chemotherapy drugs slow the body’s metabolism, thereby changing body composition.


[Read: Chemotherapy Treatment for Breast Cancer]


The use of corticosteroids to relieve nausea during chemotherapy: This type of medication could increase your appetite and make fat settle more around the abdomen compared with the rest of the body.


Food cravings during chemotherapy:  It has been observed that some women when going through chemotherapy develop a fetish for carbohydrate-rich foods and sweets. Eating these in excess can cause weight gain.


Use of steroids as part of treatment: Steroids are hormonal substances that cause an increase in fatty tissue around the neck or face and belly. Steroid medications also cause loss of muscle mass making weight gain more apparent.


Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy decreases the amount of estrogen and progesterone in females and testosterone in males. Since the body needs a minimum amount of estrogen to function properly and the only estrogen source left for it is fat, it works towards slowing the metabolism and cutting down muscle mass to form fats.


Possibility of Breast Cancer due to Excess Weight

It is commonly known that obesity is linked to cancer, and a woman’s breasts are no exception to this. A studyconducted at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston  that looked to link obesity to poor prognosis in some breast cancer patients, had realised that more than two-thirds of women with stage III locally advanced breast cancer were either overweight or obese. This study also found that obese patients were likely to be diagnosed with a rarer and deadly form of breast cancer, known as inflammatory breast cancer. The reasons for this inflammatory breast cancer could be:


  • overweight or obese women with high levels of estrogen


  • weight gain during menopause.


[Read: What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?]


Most doctors recommend moderate to high intensity exercises to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Physical activity may also help reduce the possibility of breast cancer by reducing estrogen levels and also managing weight.


Read more articles on Understand Breast Cancer.