Metabolic syndrome is a state of insulin resistance characterized by obesity (especially, a high waist-to-hip ratio), high cholesterol and triglycerides, abnormally high fasting blood sugar, and high blood pressure. Not all of these factors have to be present for a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. All of them have been found to be independently associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Now a new study has reported that women with breast cancer are more than twice as likely to see their breast cancer recur as those without any metabolic syndrome traits.

Latest research finds metabolic syndrome worsens prognosis

The study referenced at the beginning of this news article was designed to investigate whether metabolic syndrome influences breast cancer prognosis. The authors defined metabolic syndrome as the presence of at least three of the following five traits: abdominal obesity; high blood pressure; low HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol); high blood sugar; and high triglycerides. The study included 2,092 Italian women with early-stage breast cancer. The women ranged in age between 35 and 70 years and entered the study within the first five years after breast cancer surgery (average: 1.74 years). The women were followed for an average of 2.8 years for breast cancer recurrence or breast cancer-specific death. One-fifth of the study participants had metabolic syndrome at recruitment.

A total of 164 of the study participants experienced new breast cancer events, including 89 distant metastases, during the study period. Women with metabolic syndrome were more than twice as likely (2.17 times) as those without any metabolic syndrome traits to experience a recurrence and almost two and one-half times (2.45) as likely to develop distant metastases. Even women with only one or two metabolic syndrome traits had 1.4 times the rate of recurrence as those without any of them.

Each of the five traits was independently positively associated with new breast cancer events, but only the low HDL and high triglycerides associations were statistically significant. The authors conclude that metabolic syndrome negatively influences breast cancer prognosis. Since metabolic syndrome is reversible through lifestyle changes, according to the authors, breast cancer centers should take steps to decrease metabolic syndrome traits in breast cancer patients.

Please see our articles on type 2 diabetes and obesity for more information.