Obesity in the United States has increased by more than 50% in under 40 years. Today, 2 out 3 American adults are either overweight or obese, and children are not exempted from this growing epidemic. Some of the health conditions that result from obesity are diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, kidney problems, fatty liver, and cancer — accounting for almost 1 out of every 10 deaths in America, and costing the nation about $223 billion annually.
Breast cancer is another alarming health concern, especially among American women, as it is expected that 1 out of 8 women in America will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. It ranks as the second chief cause of mortality in women, second only to lung cancer.
A recently completed study discovered that a commonly prescribed treatment for breast cancer in post-menopausal women may not be as effective or successful if the individual is obese.
For post-menopausal women fighting breast cancer, doctors frequently prescribe a course of hormone inhibitors, which diminishes the body’s secretion of estrogen into the blood stream, consequently cutting off one of the breast cancer cells’ fuels for rapid growth.
Mark Elwood, a professor at Auckland University in New Zealand, found in this study that these estrogen inhibitors had a reduced effect in obese patients, as study participants had more estrogen-producing cells from their greater amounts of peripheral fat.
During the study, Elwood correlated 8 past studies to find the link between treatments for breast cancer and obese patients who were receiving them. The inhibitors given in those investigations were in preset, standard doses, but Elwood’s co-author, Dr. David Porter, feels it is important to determine if higher dosages would have a stronger effect on obese patients. Additionally, Porter said that more attention should be given to adjusting common treatments in less responsive cases, or to actually shifting to alternative formulations.
In order to make cancer treatments more tailored to each individual patient’s needs and disease characteristics, it is important to promote research efforts that seek to understand tumors on a molecular, genetic level. Scientists from the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified genetic mutations attributed to more aggressive types of breast cancer.