Review article: Obesity as a risk factor for development and poor prognosis of breast cancer


Mrs AR Carmichael, Department of Surgery, Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley DY1 2HQ, UK. Email


The evidence that obesity adversely affects women’s health is overwhelming and indisputable. The risk of postmenopausal breast cancer increases with obesity; measured as weight gain, body mass index, waist–hip ratio or percent body fat. It is also established that obesity is associated with poor prognosis of breast cancer. This review examines in detail the possible mechanisms by which obesity causes poor prognosis of breast cancer such as estrogenic activity, advanced or more aggressive disease at diagnosis and high likelihood of both local and systemic treatment failure. After careful consideration of the available evidence, the author concludes that obesity contributes towards development and poor prognosis of breast cancer; therefore, weight management should be an integral part of any strategy to prevent and improve the outcome of breast cancer.