Gain Weight During Chemo? May Make Your Cancer Grow

We've been told over and over how much being overweight or obese can affect our health. But what if it were to affect your treatment of cancer?

A new study has found that calorie restriction, a kind of dieting in which food intake is decreased by a certain percentage, may improve outcomes for women in breast cancer. "According to a study published May 26th in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, the triple negative subtype of breast cancer – one of the most aggressive forms – is less likely to spread, or metastasize, to new sites in the body when mice were fed a restricted diet," newswise.com reports.

The Web site notes that when mouse models of triple negative cancer were fed 30 percent less than what they ate when given free access to food, the cancer cells decreased their production of RNA molecules that inhibit tumor growth. Researchers have found that these molecules, or genes, often increased in triple negative cancers that metastasize. 

Breast cancer patients are often treated with hormonal therapy to block tumor growth, and steroids to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy. However, both treatments can cause a patient to have altered metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. In fact, women gain an average of 10 pounds in their first year of treatment, newswise.com explains. Recent studies have shown that too much weight makes standard treatments for breast cancer less effective, and those who gain weight during treatment have worse cancer outcomes. “That’s why it’s important to look at metabolism when treating women with cancer,” says senior author Nicole Simone, M.D., an associate professor in the department of Radiation Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University.

As a survivor of breast cancer (depending on which doctor you talk to), I had a hard time cutting back on calories because life felt so hard, I didn't want to be deprived of anything else, during treatment.  I did gain a considerable amount of weight, even though I had no chemotherapy or took steroids (I did take hormones, however). But if this prevented me from having a recurrence of a deadly form of the disease, I would lock the refrigerator and throw the key away.

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