Obesity and Breast Cancer, A Rant

I get really annoyed every time I read yet another article saying obesity causes breast cancer.  I do not believe it.

I have been considered chubby, overweight, obese, plus size and any other word you want to call it my entire life. Okay, in my case if you want to blame obesity for my breast cancer, go ahead.  But what about the hundreds of thousands of other women diagnosed with breast cancer who haven’t had a day of overweight in their lives?

All of the women in my breast cancer support group are “normal” weight and most were in extremely great physical shape before breast cancer.  The women I see at the extremely busy breast cancer clinic at University of Michigan are “normal” weight or on the thin side of normal.   A high volume of women I met while in the chemo chair were athletes and going through chemotherapy.  Have you ever read an article that said “being athletic causes breast cancer?”   I think not.  I meet a lot of breast cancer survivors and very few would be considered overweight.   I hear from hundreds of women from my Blog and great numbers of them are petite and less than normal weight, many vegetarians, and women who others would consider “did everything right” and still got breast cancer.

Blaming obesity for breast cancer numbs normal weight women into a false sense of security each time they read yet another article blaming obesity for breast cancer.

That’s my rant!



  1. I whole-heartedly agree!! I’m like you, a chubby bunny most of my adult life. Like almost all of us my only risk factor for breast cancer was the fact I’m a woman. I know I would have been in really bad shape when I got so sick from my chemo if I had been thin considering I basically didn’t eat much of anything for a couple of months. My only regret there is that when I could finally eat again I didn’t stop – LOL!! When I said that to my oncologist he jokingly said he could help me lose the weight I regained by starting the chemo again — NO WAY!

    Anyway, great rant. Hope you feel better now.

  2. Thank you for your “rant” you are totally right on. I’m just starting in this cancer vortex and I’m looking at 5 months of chemo and then surgery. All women and I might add men too, can get breast cancer. Fact. I find it totally irresponsible to lull thin athletic women into this false sense of security. I found my tumor before I was scheduled for my Mamo. Check your breasts! You know them better than anyone else does. It just might save your life. Thank you for your blog. It has really helped me mentally prepare.

  3. Great point, Denise, In fact, a very good friend of mine who is a hair stylist has told me the same thing many times as she helps her cancer survivor clients work with their hair post-chemo. She’s mentioned most of these gals are trim and weight has never been an issue for them. My thought is more care needs to be taken when coming up with the list of “risks” so all women are aware of them.

    • Denise, thank you for saying it out loud. When I was diagnosed I felt such guilt that this is something that happened to me because of diet. Thank you for your observation. It brings me peace of mind to hear a fellow survivor say it out loud.

  4. I agree!! I’m in the skinny camp and so are most of the people I’ve met along my breast cancer journey… Every time I read an article about how to avoid breast cancer, I feel frustrated that it just talks about all the things I do already: exercise lots, eat well, don’t smoke, don’t drink too much, etc etc. What I wouldn’t give to find out why I really got breast cancer…

  5. I agree with you. I don’t believe it is weight. I lean more towards what is in the food we are eating, the new car emissions, plastics, dry cleaning, cosmetics…just about everything we use has been genetically modified. I don’t think we can escape the environmental risks. It is the world we live in today.

  6. Wonderful. And also according to this logic why are not all, or at least more women who are considered obese also afflicted with breast cancer. So tired of the “blame the cancer victim mentality.” They are so busy blaming us they neglect looking for external causes. Over it!!!!

  7. Thank you! I am so glad to hear you speak out about this. Not only are skinny people assumed to safe, but I also think the attitude in society is that anyone overweight deserves cancer or illness. They might not come out and say it, but it is implied. So sad.

  8. Agreed, 3 of my long-time friend are breast cancer survivors — all have always been on the athletic side and never struggled with their weight!

  9. Denise, thanks for this heartfelt post. I agree that the emphasis on weight as an explanation for cancer can lull “healthy”-weight persons into thinking that living life “cleanly” immunizes you. Cancer is much more complicated than a consequence of overeating. I think overeating is problematic, but my extra poundage did sustain me during chemo, too. Moreover, your post is a great reminder that we shouldn’t be addressing another’s suffering by blaming the person for experiencing it.

  10. I love this rant! When I was actively going through chemotherapy this past spring, my nieces boyfriend (soon became ex after that, she tells me) said he thought I should have been doing more juices and eating more healthfully, rather than do the chemo. I sort of took his comments to mean that he believed my eating habits and lifestyle choice meant this cancer was “my fault”. I’ve had moments where I believed that, too. I was overweight to begin with, and I was not terrifically active before my diagnosis, so there is a part of me that wonders if part of this at least is because of the life style choices I’ve made. But I’ve come to realize that you can’t focus on the past, on the things you can’t change – you just have to keep moving forward.

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