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Study Shows Breast Cancer Survivors Gain More Weight Than Cancer-Free Women

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A new study out of Johns Hopkins finds breast cancer survivors are gaining more weight than women who are cancer free.

Jessica Kartalija explains the findings are relevant because previous studies suggest that breast cancer survivors who gain weight are at greater risk for cancer recurrence.

Melissa McGuire was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.

The 46-year-old has the BRCA gene, putting her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

"I opted for a prophylactic mastectomy and hysterectomy and then post surgery I was prescribed hormonal drugs, tamoxifen," McGuire said.

She said she started gaining weight right after.

"I gained 30 pounds in a year and a half," she said.

New research from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center shows breast cancer survivors gain weight at higher rates than women who have never had the disease.

"When we looked even closer we saw these were primarily in women who were having chemotherapy or estrogen negative disease," said Dr. Kala Visvanathan.

Researchers say chemo may increase inflammation and insulin resistance, disrupting the metabolism, leading to weight gain.

Previous studies suggest breast cancer survivors who gain weight may have a higher risk of recurrence.

"Weight is one of those modifiable risk factors. We know that increases in weight can be associated with other chronic diseases," Visvanathan said.

McGuire says losing weight hasn't been easy, she is trying to eat right and exercise.

"You really have to take charge of your own lifestyle and your body because the doctors aren't there with you every day giving you medication or holding your hand to keep your weight down. It's something you have to do yourself," she says.

Survivors treated with chemotherapy were 2.1 times more likely than cancer-free women to gain at least 11 pounds during follow-up.

A family predisposition for breast cancer increases that risk.

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