A recent study suggests that weight loss helps to lower the risks of breast cancer in overweight menopausal women.
Losing weight, particularly through exercise and diet, helps overweight women to bring down the levels of certain hormones found in their blood that are capable of increasing their breast cancer risks.
AdvertisementIn the new study, researchers attempted to understand how the potentially dangerous levels of body hormones could be affected by weight loss achieved through exercise and diet.
439 overweight to obese menopausal women, between the ages of 50 and 75 (average age 58) formed the subjects of the study. The investigators randomly assigned the participants to one of the four groups.
One group did aerobic exercise for 45 minutes every day, another group followed a low calorie diet that included fruits, vegetables and high fiber food, the third group exercised (mostly walked) and also followed the diet and the fourth group did neither. The last group was offered four weight-loss classes and eight weeks of physical exercise training, once the study was completed.
Hormone levels were directly used to measure breast cancer risks. The experts noted that the amount of weight lost directly impacted the change in hormone levels.
After one year, dieters on an average lost 10.8% of their body weight and those who exercised along with a diet lost about 11.9%. While those who only exercised and those in the control group gained weight.
The researchers noted an increase of 25.8% in sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which protects against breast cancer by controlling the levels of circulating estrogen, in women who were on a diet and exercised while the elevation in SHBG levels was 22.4% in those who were on diet without exercise. There was also a reduction in fasting insulin levels and inflammation measurements in the diet-and-exercise group. In other groups, the changes were much smaller.
It has been observed that the link between weight loss and the reduction in breast cancer risk applies only to post menopausal women. During menopause, the ovaries cease to function and the fat tissues begin to behave like an endocrine organ and begin to produce estrogens.
Women who are obese are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer, and, estrogen has been identified as the culprit in several types of common breast cancers. Losing as little as 5% of one's body weight can reduce risks by 22%. Weight loss along with regular exercise can greatly help to minimize breast cancer risks.
The study does not conclude that weight loss lowers the risk of breast cancer but it certainly indicates that weight loss reduces the levels of circulating estrogens, which are capable of increasing breast cancer risks in post-menopausal women.
Study co-author Dr. Anne McTiernan, director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said, "The findings don't prove that losing weight this way will prevent breast cancer. Weight loss represents an additional option for long-term breast cancer risk reduction without significant or bothersome side effects."
Breast cancer risk factors include obesity, alcohol consumption, not breast feeding babies and hormone-replacement therapy. Obesity is a risk factor that women can do something about.
It is never too late to change your lifestyle, especially if the changes are lifesaving!
Journal of Clinical Oncology, May 21:2012