Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer diagnoses globally and a leading cause of death from cancer among women. Although many women diagnosed with breast cancer are living longer than ever before, in 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally.

A new review from the World Cancer Research Fund International explores the links between weight, diet, physical activity, and a woman’s risk of death after a breast cancer diagnosis. The analysis encompassed 226 studies with more than 456,000 women with breast cancer. The results found a strong correlation between higher body weight after diagnosis and increased risk of death. The study also found evidence that suggests heightened physical activity lowers the risk of death.

Maintaining Healthy Body Weight

The review cites several key risk factors related to body weight, including Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. For all measures, higher levels are generally linked to greater health risks. It is important that employees do not look at these metrics in isolation, as BMI and other assessments do not always paint an accurate picture of individual or organizational health.

While the review only found limited evidence that healthy eating patterns could reduce the risk of death, there is substantial research that supports the role nutrition can play in weight management. Including nutrition tracking as a component in a holistic wellness program is an important way to boost employees’ weight loss success. Using a nutrition app to log food about two to three times a day for an average of 20 minutes per day will help employees track food consistently throughout the weight loss process.

Physical Activity

Most of the studies looked at recreational physical activity, such as aerobics, walking, and running. Evidence suggests that 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity reduces the risk of death from breast cancer by 14%. The most active women in the WCRF studies had an estimated 44% reduced risk of death.

Exercise rates have not recovered from the pandemic, meaning that there is a greater need for employees to be intentional about increasing physical activity levels. Wellness challenges, on-demand fitness classes, and on-site exercise programs create more opportunities for both in-office and remote employees to engage in physical activity.


October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. Employers can educate employees on the importance of mammograms as well as provide direct access to breast cancer screenings to help with early detection and diagnosis. They can also help employees live healthy lives beyond diagnosis by incorporating holistic wellness programs to encourage lifestyle behaviors that can reduce the risk of death from breast cancer.

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