Obesity, inflammation, and postmenopausal breast cancer: therapeutic implications

ScientificWorldJournal. 2011;11:2020-36. doi: 10.1100/2011/806787. Epub 2011 Oct 27.


Breast cancer is the female malignant neoplasia with the highest incidence in the industrialized world. Although early diagnosis has contributed to therapeutic success, breast cancer remains a major health issue. In the last few year the hormone therapy for estrogen-dependent breast cancer has evolved achieving significant clinical results; at the same time, it has enabled us to better define the role of estrogens in the etiopathogenesis of this tumour. Weight increase and obesity have been identified as the most important risk and prognostic factors for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the association of obesity with postmenopausal breast cancer. Specific obesity-associated factors, including leptin, insulin and inflammatory mediators, seem to influence breast cancer growth and prognosis independently of estrogens and at least in part by interacting with estrogen signalling at a cellular level. Therefore, a careful assessment of the nutritional status and body composition is paramount for a proper therapeutic approach for postmenopausal breast carcinoma. The use of antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory drugs associated with conventional hormone therapies and dietary/physical interventions could offer a new therapeutic approach for breast carcinoma that develops in the context of adiposity.

Keywords: Obesity; aromatase inhibitors; breast cancer; inflammation; metformin; oxidative stress; postmenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / physiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Postmenopause*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain


  • Adipokines
  • Estrogens