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Weight Gain After Breast Cancer May Be Risky

Study Shows Increased Risk of Cancer’s Return in Women Who Gain a Lot of Weight

After Cancer, Fighting the Scale

The weight gain that can follow breast cancer is disheartening and catches many off guard, says Cheryl Rock, PhD, RD, professor in the cancer prevention and control program at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, because most people are used to thinking of cancer as a wasting disease.

“If you go through the process of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and then having surgery and everything and then on top of that you gain 20 pounds, it’s not happy thing,” Rock says.

But researchers who have followed women with breast cancer as they go through their daily routines have made some important discoveries as to why many breast cancer patients soon see the numbers on the scale creeping higher.

It’s not uncommon, for example, for intensive treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, which are time consuming and can cause extreme fatigue, to derail active women.

And the forced menopause that often followed chemotherapy causes women to lose lean body mass, which can dramatically slow the body’s metabolism.

The result, explains Rock, is that “it’s very easy to gain weight after eating not a lot more food.”

The next wave of studies will focus on helping women with breast cancer keep off extra pounds. Rock, for example, is leading a study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, which is looking at the effects of different interventions on body weight after breast cancer.

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