Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Weight Gain After Breast Cancer May Be Risky

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

Weight Gain After Breast Cancer continued...

Among women who were lean at diagnosis, 20.2% gained moderate amounts of weight, which was defined as an increase of 5% to 10% of pre-diagnosis weight;19.4% saw an extreme gain of 10% or more, which amounted to a minimum of about 12-15 pounds in this group.

“The normal weight or underweight women were most at risk for gaining weight, and the normal weight or underweight women were also the ones with the biggest effect of weight gain, if they gained that 10%,” says study researcher Bette Caan, DrPH, a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

Women who were normal weight at diagnosis and experienced extreme weight gains over the next two years had a 25% increased risk of breast cancer death, and an increased risk of recurrence, compared to women with stable body weights.

Extreme weight gain also appeared to be particularly dangerous for women whose tumors were responsive to estrogen and for nonsmokers with an increase in their risk of overall death of 25% and 29% respectively.

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.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow