27 April 2014
The current systematic literature review and meta-analysis extends and confirms the associations of obesity with an unfavourable overall and breast cancer survival in pre and postmenopausal breast cancer, regardless of when BMI is ascertained. Increased risks of mortality in underweight and overweight women and J-shape associations with total mortality were also observed. The recommendation of maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life is important as obesity is a pandemic health concern.
Positive association between obesity and survival after breast cancer was demonstrated in previous meta-analyses of published data, but only the results for the comparison of obese versus non-obese was summarised.
We systematically searched in MEDLINE and EMBASE for follow-up studies of breast cancer survivors with body mass index (BMI) before and after diagnosis, and total and cause-specific mortality until June 2013, as part of the World Cancer Research Fund Continuous Update Project. Random-effects meta-analyses were conducted to explore the magnitude and the shape of the associations.
Eighty-two studies, including 213 075 breast cancer survivors with 41 477 deaths (23 182 from breast cancer) were identified. For BMI before diagnosis, compared with normal weight women, the summary relative risks (RRs) of total mortality were 1.41 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.29–1.53] for obese (BMI >30.0), 1.07 (95 CI 1.02–1.12) for overweight (BMI 25.0–<30.0) and 1.10 (95% CI 0.92–1.31) for underweight (BMI <18.5) women. For obese women, the summary RRs were 1.75 (95% CI 1.26–2.41) for pre-menopausal and 1.34 (95% CI 1.18–1.53) for post-menopausal breast cancer. For each 5 kg/m 2 increment of BMI before, <12 months after, and ≥12 months after diagnosis, increased risks of 17%, 11%, and 8% for total mortality, and 18%, 14%, and 29% for breast cancer mortality were observed, respectively.
Obesity is associated with poorer overall and breast cancer survival in pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer, regardless of when BMI is ascertained. Being overweight is also related to a higher risk of mortality. Randomised clinical trials are needed to test interventions for weight loss and maintenance on survival in women with breast cancer.