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Weight and Risk

Posted 8/21/2015

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  The evidence continues to come in that weight (meaning, too much of it) increases risk for breast cancer and, likely, for breast cancer recurrence. There has been less attention paid to this possibility for other cancers, but my non-doctor head suggests the common sense conclusion that it is likely to be true for other cancers that may be related to estrogen. This could include some GYN cancers and, perhaps, some others.

  I write an entry earlier this week about reframing the motivation for exercise, specifically to think about immediate rewards rather than longer-term ones. These risk studies would seem to provide us with plenty of medium and long term motivation. Having said that and surely knowing that, it did not make it any easier to pull myself out of bed this morning (having had a late night yesterday) and get to the gym. But I did.


Research Suggests Risk Continues to Increase as Weight
Goes Up

Overweight and obese women -- defined as having a BMI (body mass index) higher than 25 -- have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence ) omen who’ve been diagnosed with the disease.

This higher risk is partially because fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Scientists also have recently found that extra fat cells can trigger long-term, low-grade inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence; the proteins secreted by the immune system seem to stimulate breast cancer cells to grow, especially estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Statistics show that more than 66% of U.S. women are overweight or obese, which puts them at higher risk for breast cancer. A new analysis of information from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) suggests that the more obese a postmenopausal woman is, the higher her risk of breast cancer.
The study was published in the August 2015 issue of JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Overweight, Obesity, and Postmenopausal Invasive Breast Cancer Risk: A Secondary Analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trials.”


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