Health Watch

Jul 17, 2012 11:01 AM

Study: Obesity May Hinder Some Breast Cancer Treatments

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates obesity may hinder the treatment of some forms of breast cancer.

Researchers in England looked at 54 postmenopausal women diagnosed with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. This form of cancer requires estrogen to grow, and treatment involves blocking estrogen production, thus "starving" the cancer cells.

The study revealed obese women maintained higher levels of estrogen than those at a normal weight.

Researchers compared women based on body-mass index. Women with a BMI between 30 and 35 had about three times the estrogen level in their bloodstream as those with a BMI under 25. A BMI of 30 is considered the threshold for obesity. After treatment with a hormone suppressing drug, estrogen levels dropped significantly in the heavier group, but still remained nearly twice as high as levels in women with lower BMIs.

"Our findings are based on laboratory studies, so we would need to carry out clinical trials to tell us whether women with a higher BMI would benefit from changes to their treatment," study senior author Mitch Dowsett, a team leader in the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said.

Dowsett emphasized the study results should not deter overweight women from continuing their current treatment.

"Women with higher BMIs should certainly not be alarmed by this finding or stop taking their treatment," he said. "However, our study takes us a step closer to understanding which of the treatment options available might be the most suitable for individual women."

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