Weight change during chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: A meta-analysis

M. M.G.A. Berg, R. M. Winkels, J. Th C.M. Kruif, H. W.M. Laarhoven, M. Visser, J. H.M. Vries, Y. C. Vries, E. Kampman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Weight gain during chemotherapy in women with breast cancer is commonly reported. However, there are important differences between studies that examined weight change during chemotherapy; e.g. type of chemotherapy, menopausal status, time between body weight measurements and sample size. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to quantify changes in body weight during chemotherapy for women with breast cancer, taking these differences into account.

METHODS: We identified relevant studies using PubMed, Scopus and Embase databases. The search was limited to human studies published in English up to and including December 2015. Only studies among women with early stage breast cancer treated with chemotherapy, with reported body weight before and after chemotherapy and type of chemotherapy were included. Random-effect models were used, and heterogeneity between studies was explored through stratified analyses and meta-regression. Sensitivity analyses were done to explore whether a specific study markedly affected the results.

RESULTS: In total 25 papers were found, including data from 2620 women. Overall, body weight increased during chemotherapy: 2.7 kg (95% CI 2.0, 7.5) with a high degree of heterogeneity (I2 = 94.2%). Stratified analyses showed weight gain in all strata, but did not substantially reduce heterogeneity. Univariate meta-regression showed less weight gain in prospective studies compared to chart review studies (-2.0, 95% CI: -3.1, -0.8). Studies including cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil (CMF) regimes showed a greater weight gain compared to those that did not (2.2, 95% CI: 1.1, 3.3); and papers published until the year 2000 showed a greater weight gain compared to those published after 2000 (1.9, 95% CI:-0.8, 3.1). In the multivariate models only studies including CMF regimes and studies published until 2000 were associated with significant weight gain of respectively 1.3 and 1.4 kg.

CONCLUSION: Despite the high heterogeneity, this meta-analysis shows significant weight gain during chemotherapy for women with breast cancer. Weight gain was more pronounced in papers published until 2000 and women receiving CMF as chemotherapy regime. Although weight gain after chemotherapy has decreased over the course of time, weight gain is still substantial and deserves clinical attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number259
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2017


This study was funded by the Dutch Cancer Society. Grant numbers UW2011–4987 and UW2011–5268. The funding body was not involved in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Dutch Cancer Society


    • Breast cancer
    • Chemotherapy
    • Meta-analysis
    • Weight change


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