Weight loss intervention for breast cancer survivors: A systematic review

Mary Playdon, Gwendolyn Thomas, Tara Sanft, Maura Harrigan, Jennifer Ligibel, Melinda Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


To determine the effectiveness of weight loss intervention for breast cancer survivors. From October 2012 until March 2013, Pubmed was searched for weight loss intervention trials that reported body weight or weight loss as a primary outcome. Fifteen of these studies are included in this review. Of the 15 studies included, 14 resulted in statistically significant weight loss and 10 obtained clinically meaningful weight loss of ≥5 % from baseline. Evidence was provided of the feasibility of using several methods of weight loss intervention (telephone, in person, individual, group). Successful intervention used a comprehensive approach, with dietary, physical activity, and behavior modification components. Weight loss improved cardiovascular risk factors and markers of glucose homeostasis. However, there is insufficient evidence to identify the components of this intervention that led to successful weight loss, or to determine the weight loss necessary to affect biomarkers linked to breast cancer prognosis. The small number of randomized controlled trials shared several limitations, including small study sample sizes and lack of follow-up beyond 6 months. Intervention with longer follow-up revealed weight regain, showing the importance of considering strategies to promote long-term weight maintenance. Weight loss intervention for breast cancer survivors can lead to statistically significant and clinically meaningful weight loss, but the limited number of interventional studies, small sample sizes, and short duration of follow-up in many studies limit our ability to draw conclusions regarding the most efficacious weight-loss intervention after a breast cancer diagnosis. The findings to date are encouraging, but research on the effect of weight loss on breast cancer recurrence and mortality, and on prevention of weight gain for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-246
Number of pages25
JournalCurrent Breast Cancer Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology


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