Magnitude and attributed reasons for adult weight gain amongst women at increased risk of breast cancer

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BACKGROUND: Excess weight (BMI ≥25.0 kg/m<sup>2</sup>) and weight gain during adult life increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in women who are already at increased risk of the disease. Reasons for weight gain in this population can inform strategies for weight gain prevention.

METHODS: Baseline data from six weight loss studies for women at increased risk of breast cancer (age 31-74 years) were collated. Self-reported patterns of adult weight gain and attributed reasons for weight gain before joining the weight loss study were reported for the whole population and secondary analyses reported the different reasons given by women with/without children, pre-/peri- or postmenopausal, and moderate/high risk of breast cancer.

RESULTS: Five hundred and one women with a mean age of 47.6 (SD 8.4) years and median BMI of 29.9 (IQR 27.0-34.7) kg/m<sup>2</sup> were included in the analyses. The median weight gain since young adulthood (18-20 years) was 20.5 (IQR 14.0-29.7) kg or 33.7 (23.4-50.2) % and median annual weight gain was 0.73 (IQR 0.51-1.08) kg. Four hundred and one women were included in analysis of weight gain reasons. The main five self-reported reasons for weight gain were children / childcare / pregnancy (stated by 55.9% of participants), followed by inactivity (41.9%), comfort or boredom eating (38.2%), portion size (32.4%), and stress (27.4%). Reasons appeared broadly similar between the different groups in the secondary analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: We have highlighted common reasons for weight gain in women at increased risk of breast cancer. This will inform future interventions to support women to avoid weight gain in adulthood which would reduce the burden of breast cancer.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NIHR NRR N0226132725, ISRCTN52913838, ISRCTN77916487, ISRCTN91372184, ISRCTN10803394 and ISRCTN16431108.

Original languageEnglish
Article number447
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
Early online date12 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Adult
  • Pregnancy
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Young Adult
  • Middle Aged
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms/complications
  • Body Mass Index
  • Postmenopause
  • Obesity/epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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