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Obesity Plays Role in Higher Breast Cancer Rates for Black Women

MONDAY, Dec. 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity may be a major reason Black American women with early breast cancer are 40% more likely to die than white patients, according to a new study.

Obesity is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, and decades of rising rates of obesity in the United States have contributed to climbing breast cancer rates greater in Black women than white women.

And even though breast cancer death rates have fallen, the decrease has been smaller in Black women.

This study included 548 patients treated for early breast cancer and found that 62% of Black patients and 33% of white patients were obese. Black patients were also more likely to have obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol than white women, according to the findings.

The study was published Dec. 7 in the journal Cancer.

"Early breast cancer is highly treatable, and survival rates have improved steadily due to treatment advances and early detection through mammograms; however, the high rates of obesity, overall comorbidities, and obesity-related comorbidities observed among women with early breast cancer -- especially among Black women -- can contribute to disparities in overall survival of these patients," said study author Kirsten Nyrop, deputy director for research in the Geriatric Oncology Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rates of many cancers associated with obesity are higher in Black women, as are rates of obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, she pointed out.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic has glaringly underscored, there is an urgent need to address the systemic and socioeconomic aspects of obesity that disproportionately affect minority communities in the U.S. if we are to reverse health disparities," Nyrop said in a journal news release.

An accompanying editorial said doctors should take advantage of a breast cancer diagnosis as an opportunity for far-reaching health interventions.

A number of lifestyle changes that can reduce obesity can also potentially prolong cancer patients' survival, the editorial said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on weight and breast cancer risk.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Dec. 7, 2020

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