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Breast cancer
Breast Cancer Risk

Dietitian Juliette Kellow highlights the importance to women of maintaining a healthy weight throughout life in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer when they are older.

Piling on the Pounds Boosts the Risk of Breast Cancer

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

New research this month reveals that gaining weight throughout adulthood significantly increases the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women – and the more weight you gain, the greater the risk becomes.

The study, carried out by scientists at the American Cancer Society, included more than 44,000 postmenopausal women who were not taking hormone therapy. The researchers discovered that gaining weight after the age of 18 increased the risk of all types of breast cancer in older women.

Women who gained more than 60lb throughout their adult years were twice as likely to have tumours in the ducts of their breasts (ductal breast cancer) than those women who gained less than 20lb. They were also one and a half times more likely to have cancer in the lobes of their breasts (lobular breast cancer) and three times more likely to have tumours that spread to other parts of the body.

WLR says:

This research gives women a clear picture about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight throughout life in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer when they are older.

Levels of circulating oestrogen, a female reproductive hormone, are thought to have an important role to play in determining breast cancer risk. After the menopause, levels of oestrogen drop. This is good news because oestrogen is thought to boost the growth of most breast cancers.

However, obese women tend to have higher circulating levels of this hormone even after the menopause, because oestrogen is produced in body fat. And it’s this that’s thought to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Bottom line: one of the easiest ways to lower your risk of breast cancer is to lose any excess pounds – and remember, it’s never too late to take action.

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