Fitbit and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are partnering on a two-year study to determine how weight loss plays into breast cancer recurrence.

The study, called The Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) trial, will have 3,200 overweight and obese female participants tracking weight loss and fitness goals using a Fitbit Charge HR.

Excess body weight has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, and growing evidence suggests that obesity is associated with poor prognosis in women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, said Fitbit in the announcement.

Despite many reports supporting a relationship between weight and breast cancer prognosis, there have been no studies examining the effect of weight loss upon the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

“The increased risk of cancer recurrence linked to excess body weight threatens to limit our progress in treating breast cancer and preventing women from dying from this disease,” said Lead BWEL Investigator and Oncologist at Dana-Farber, Jennifer Ligibel.

“If this study shows that losing weight through increasing physical activity and reducing calories improves survival rates in breast cancer, this could lead to weight loss and physical activity becoming a standard part of the treatment for millions of breast cancer patients around the world,” continued Ligibel.

The Fitbit HR provides 24-hour activity and heart rate tracking. Participants will also receive a Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale that tracks weight, BMI, lean mass and body fat percentage over time and wirelessly syncs to the Fitbit online or mobile dashboard to help users stay on track towards goals. In addition, participants will use FitStar, a software tool that provides personalised video-based exercise experiences.

Study participants will be randomised to a weight loss intervention, as well as to either a health education programme focusing on breast cancer or a health education programme-alone control group. Patients in the weight loss group will work with a health coach to boost exercise and reduce calories.

“We are thrilled to partner with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on this type of intervention research, helping find a link between key behavioural changes and breast cancer recurrence and potentially helping reduce the terrible burden of cancer for millions of women and their families worldwide,” said Fitbit Chief Business Officer, Woody Scal.

“It will be a challenge to help hundreds of women lose weight without actually ever meeting them face-to-face. Fitbit products will allow coaches to see how participants are doing in terms of meeting their weight, physical activity and caloric goals, and step in when women need extra support to stay on track,” concluded Ligibel.

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