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Weight Gain Longitudinally Linked with Negative Body-Related Emotions in Breast Cancer Survivors

      Weight gain in breast cancer survivors (BCS) has been linked with body image distress and adverse impact on cancer survival and treatment outcomes. Despite strong links between excess adiposity and overall body image concern, little is known about the impact of weight gain on body image emotions long-term. The purpose of this study was to (i) examine weight correlates of body-related emotions and to (ii) identify the impact of weight gain on body-related emotions longitudinally. In a sample of female BCS (n=198; Mage= 55.01±10.96; 51% overweight or obese), researchers collected weight, height and waist circumference measures at baseline (Months=3.45 post-treatment), and participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing body image emotions (i.e., body-related shame, guilt and social physique anxiety) at 6, 9 and 12 months thereafter. Shame, guilt and social physique anxiety were positively linked with pre-cancer weight fluctuation (r=0.32 to 0.37), post-treatment body mass index (BMI) (r=0.30 to 0.41), waist circumference (r=0.33 to 0.45) and efforts to lose weight (r=0.31 to 0.46). Women who gained weight post-cancer (n=91) reported higher body-related shame, guilt and social physique anxiety compared to post-treatment non weight gainers (n=107) based on multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVAs). Notably, continued weight gain during treatment was not associated with further impact on shame, guilt or anxiety. Based on these findings, weight gain in the initial post-treatment period of the cancer trajectory is most strongly linked with long-term negative body image outcomes. Weight management and body image counseling should be targeted immediately following breast cancer treatment to reduce the burden of weight gain on psychological wellbeing.
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