A study, published in the Proceedings for the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests that assessing leptin levels may be a more effective means of cancer prognosis than measuring body mass index and the amount of fat in a woman's diet. None of the measures for detecting breast cancer are perfect, says lead author Dr Richard Hajek from the University of Texas.
But, he says that levels of leptin which signals to the brain when it is time to stop eating are a sign of a woman's accumulation of fat over the years and offer an alternative means of testing for breast cancer risk. The amount of leptin found in a woman's bloodstream can indicate her accumulation of fat over the years. Measuring current body weight and fat intake doesn't offer that kind of perspective, says Dr Hajek.
The research team looked at 38 postmenopausal Hispanic women in order to assess how leptin levels fluctuated between those who switched to a high-fibre, low-fat diet and those who changed to high-fibre diets without reducing their fat intake. The researchers discovered that if body weight and body fat together were taken out of the equation, a correlation remained between leptin and diet. As women ate less fat their leptin levels decreased, offering a possible reduced chance of contracting breast cancer, say the researchers.