Breast Cancer Survivors at Risk of Weight Gain, Hopkins Study Says

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By the time a woman can call herself a breast cancer survivor, she’s been through a lot — generally, a scary diagnosis and then an even scarier treatment. But the health risks of breast cancer may be more wide-reaching than previously thought, according to recent research out of Johns Hopkins. 

The Hopkins study looked at 303 breast cancer survivors and 307 similar women who had not had cancer. Researchers found that over four years, the breast cancer group gained an average of 3.6 pounds more than their cancer-free peers. Women who had undergone chemotherapy were at an even greater risk of weight gain — they were 2.1 times more likely to gain at least 11 pounds in the same time frame than cancer-free women.

The reasons for the weight gain are not yet clear. Chemo may disrupt metabolism; it also tends to make you feel pretty crappy, which likely leads to less exercise and thus increased weight gain. Cancer is also stressful… and we all know how stress impacts weight.

Study author Kala Visvanathan, a professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health,  hopes that the findings encourage oncologists and others working with cancer patients take steps to “help them monitor their weight over the long term.”

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