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November 29, 2016

Weight loss can help reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence

Emerging research is showing the importance of maintaining a healthy weight after cancer treatment, according to Melinda Irwin, Professor of Epidemiology from Yale University, who is an international expert in weight loss and cancer survival.

Her study found that 66 per cent of breast cancer survivors were overweight and obese, and only one in three were meeting physical activity guidelines.

Dr Irwin’s research also found that a marker associated with breast cancer mortality is reduced by 30 per cent when women reduce their weight by just five per cent. Insulin pathways within the breast tissue were also seen to change in ways that are linked to lowering cancer risk and mortality.

“My research has suggested that losing weight can actually change biological markers in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer and may reduce the risk of recurrence,” says Dr Irwin.

NBCF-funded researcher Dr Brigid Lynch is also investigating the benefits of exercise on treatment outcomes. Her research project includes a trial of wearable technology, such as Fitbits, to encourage women to reach their exercise goals. The study aims to gather important data for evidence-based exercise recommendations for women recovering from breast cancer.

“There can be many reasons why women who have had breast cancer might avoid extra physical activity, such as having low fitness levels or feeling fatigued easily. Knowing this, we still want to encourage them to get out and about as often as possible to optimise health outcomes,” says Dr Lynch.