With over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the US today, a question raised by several poster presentations at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium included the endpoint for studies of breast cancer survivors. For example, in a study by Jones and colleagues (poster PD08-03) studied 9766 women with early stage hormone receptor positive breast cancer. For 5113 women with negative nodes at diagnosis, 2.8% died due to breast cancer during 5 years of follow-up. In this same group of women, 3.5% died from other causes. For 4587 women with positive nodes, the pattern was reversed with more women dying form breast cancer (8.7%) than from other causes (4.1%). Non breast cancer causes of death included heart disease and stroke.
The percentage of breast cancer cases diagnosed among overweight and obese women in the US continues to increase. As a consequence, the importance of obesity in the development of other chronic disease after successful treatment of breast cancer will become increasingly apparent. Mortality data as reported by Jones offer a reminder that we should pay particular attention to routine care and management of other health conditions. In addition, previous data from a large randomized trial show that obese women had increased risk of developing breast cancer in the opposite breast and increased total mortality compared to normal weight women. Importantly the excess morality included non-breast cancer deaths which were elevated by 50% compared to normal weight women (Dignam, Wieand et al. 2003).
For more information to help survivors we have prepared a new 8-ways brochure. Here's a free printable guide to staying healthy after cancer.
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Dignam, J. J., K. Wieand, et al. (2003). "Obesity, tamoxifen use, and outcomes in women with estrogen receptor-positive early-stage breast cancer." J Natl Cancer Inst 95(19): 1467-1476.