Purpose: Obesity is associated with adverse outcomes in postmenopausal women with breast cancer. In premenopausal women, the association is less clear.
Methods: A population-based sample of 1,360 Australian women with breast cancer before the age of 60 years, 47% diagnosed before age 40, and 74% premenopausal, was studied prospectively for a median of 5 years (range, 0.2-10.8 years). Obesity was defined as a body mass index of > or =30 kg/m2. The hazard ratio (HR) for adverse clinical outcome associated with obesity was estimated using Cox proportional hazard survival models.
Results: Obesity increased with age (P < 0.001) and was associated with increased breast cancer recurrence (P = 0.02) and death (P = 0.06), larger tumors (P = 0.002), and more involved axillary nodes (P = 0.003) but not with hormone receptor status (P > or = 0.6) or with first cycle adjuvant chemotherapy dose reductions (P = 0.1). Adjusting for number of axillary nodes, age at diagnosis, tumor size, grade, and hormone receptor status, obese women of all ages were more likely than nonobese women to have disease recurrence [HR, 1.57; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.11-2.22; P = 0.02] and to die from any cause during follow-up (HR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.01-2.40; P = 0.05). In premenopausal women, the adjusted HRs were 1.50 (95% CI, 1.00-2.26; P = 0.06) and 1.71 (95% CI, 1.05-2.77; P = 0.04), respectively.
Conclusions: Obesity is independently associated with poorer outcomes in premenopausal women, as it is in postmenopausal women, and this is not entirely explained by differences in tumor size or nodal status. Given the high and increasing prevalence of obesity in western countries, more research on improving the treatment of obese breast cancer patients is warranted.