Research Says Being Overweight Can Lessen the Risk of Breast Cancer

Being overweight or obese during adolescence reduces a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer, researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered. This finding doesn’t mean that younger women could just eat chocolates and fast foods anytime.

The present study by Karin B. Michels and colleagues lends a new view on the relationship between adult weight change and premenopausal breast cancer among women. The authors similarly concluded that a woman’s weight at age 18 gives a stronger predictor of breast cancer risk. The risk is calculated through body mass index (BMI), a height-to-weight comparison.

For breast cancer, there is a clear association between obesity and cancer risk, particularly in postmenopausal women. A cancer organization reported that worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Thus, obesity is on the rise all over all the world, most especially in urban areas.

This interest encompasses the potential consequences of obesity in breast cancer risk among premenopausal women. The results of the study by Michel’s group showed that BMI at age 18 is a predictor of breast cancer in younger women than their current weight.

More than 116, 000 participants in Brigham and Women’s Nurses Heath Study were quizzed about their age, height, weight, menstrual cycles, family history of breast cancer, and fertility status, among others.

In the study, the researchers found out that there is more than 40 percent lower incidence of premenopausal breast cancer among women with a BMI of 27.5 at age 18, or higher incidence compared to women with a BMI between 20 and 22.4 at age 18.

It concluded that overweight and obesity are inversely related to the risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women.

Researchers said that the link to age of decrease premenopausal breast cancer risk may be explained by hormones. Before women reach puberty, females do not have to deal with estradiol (estrogen), progesterone, and other sex hormones that are responsible in ovulation.

But the theory on premenopausal women’s level of estrogen is yet to be solved.

Things change after menopause. A high body mass in adulthood increases breast cancer incidence among postmenopausal women. Weight gain since early adulthood and since menopausal has been associated with an increase in postmenopausal breast cancer, while weight loss after menopause may reduce the risk.

Many cohort studies also support the present study stating that greater body weight is associated with a decrease in premonopausal breast cancer risk and an increase in postmenopausal breast cancer risk.

A number of hypotheses discuss that obesity leads to a larger exposure to estrogen. Fat cells produce substances that could possibly increase breast cancer risk. Obesity also leads to other hormonal changes that might affect breast cancer risk.

However, Harvard researchers noted that data on the effect of weight change on breast cancer incidence among premenopausal women are sparse.

The good news is that body weight is one of the few breast cancer risk factors women have control over. Ronald delos Reyes, program coordinator of Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC) of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), said that a well balanced diet is always a good investment.

“A healthy body does not only promote good health but also protects us from diseases like cancer. Healthy lifestyle always tops the list of breast cancer prevention,” he added.

“Every woman and man should seriously consider investing their time and effort to maintain their ideal body weight. Having a healthy lifestyle and a healthy body should be an everyday priority all the time,” he stressed.

This article is based on the study “Adult weight change and incidence of premenopausal breast cancer” by Karen B. Michels, et. al.

Important note: This article first appeared in The Freeman Lifestyle. RAFI provided with a copy to further emphasize the importance of early detection in preventing cancer and to increase public support for cancer initiatives.

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