Image source: / Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Image source: / Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Breast Cancer Survivors – Overweight And Sedentary!

I chose that title to get your attention because I came across an interesting but fairly disturbing bit of information today while researching an article I’m writing about risk factors for breast cancer. With this article I hope to raise awareness of two things we are doing as breast cancer survivors that are not helping us in our bid to stay cancer free and then I’ll offer some suggestions and tips.

In the book “Improving Outcomes For Breast Cancer Survivors” published in 2015 1, the chapter titled Risk Reduction from Weight Management and Physical Activity Interventions indicates that many breast cancer survivors are overweight or obese, and were not engaging in the recommended levels of activity.

The actual figures were pretty disturbing – a whopping 65% of breast cancer survivors were deemed to be overweight or obese, and 30% were too sedentary. People, this is important!

Another new study published in the Gynecologic Oncology Journal in May 2015 indicated that inactivity and sedentary behavior were related to poorer health outcomes in breast cancer survivors. 2

Older studies confirm that postmenopausal women whose body mass index falls in the obese category have about twice the breast cancer risk of women with a body mass index in the normal range. 3

One study indicated that obesity increased breast cancer risk by as much as 58% in postmenopausal women, and was also associated with advanced disease, including larger tumor size, disease that had spread, and more deaths. 4

So why does being overweight or obese pose such a risk?

Here are some of the factors we know about:

1. Fat cells create estrogen and an overabundance of estrogen can cause hormonal imbalances within the body which trigger a whole cascade of problems.

2.  Fat cells also release inflammatory factors which are associated with insulin resistance, both of which can increase breast cancer risk.

3. Emotional factors – being overweight and/or obese carries with it a whole range of emotional and self-esteem issues and negative ways of thinking which are also considered to be risk factors for breast cancer.

Fortunately, with a few key lifestyle changes this is something we can address and improve. If you have already had breast cancer once, you know for certain you don’t want it back again, so anything than can be done to reduce the risk of recurrence is well worth pursuing.

Helpful Tips If You Are Overweight and Sedentary

1.  Exercise – it’s never too late to begin. When we exercise, we bring fresh oxygen into our bodies and cancer hates oxygenated tissues. Lack of exercise and oxygen is the environment in which cancer loves to thrive. If you have disliked exercise in the past, stop thinking of it as a chore and think of it as your “pro-life” choice.  Find new ways of exercising that you love – join a fun dance class, learn to paddle a canoe, get a friend or grandchild and walk in beautiful places, find new ways to move. Do something different every day if you like variety, but get your body moving, at least 30 minutes per day.

2.  Get some help. The factors contributing to food addiction, obesity and weight gain go deeper than you might suspect. As one study put it, overeating was “a substitute gratification in reaction to intolerable life situations.” If you have tried to lose weight in the past and it hasn’t worked, try working with a counselor. Because being overweight and/or obese generally involves emotional issues, working with a counselor to begin to gently heal the emotional factors and to understand why you eat the way you do can be so empowering and can greatly increase your chances of success.

3.  Check out  They are an international fellowship of men and women who have problems with food addictions. Their program of recovery is based on the twelve-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous. There are no fees, dues or weigh-ins at FA meetings. Membership is open to anyone who wants help with food.

4. Try hypnosis.  A well-trained hypnotherapist can help you to change your thinking, get to the bottom of the problem and create a whole new relationship with food and with your body. A few of my friends have done this and found that hypnosis definitely helped with weight loss.

5. Get your doctor or naturopath involved. He or she may have some very helpful weight loss suggestions for you. Naturopaths in particular know which nutrients help to curb food cravings, and which foods make you feel more full but don’t contribute to weight gain.

If you have any helpful tips or hints about weight loss, feel free to share them in the comments section, and I sincerely hope this has helped you.


1.  Risk Reduction from Weight Management and Physical Activity Interventions –

2. Physical activity and sedentary behavior in breast cancer survivors: New insight into activity patterns and potential intervention targets –

3.  Obesity and Breast Cancer Risk –

4.  Overweight, Obesity, and Postmenopausal Invasive Breast Cancer Risk: A Secondary Analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trials –

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