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Girls, yet another reason to watch your weight. Women who pack on pounds steadily over their lifetime up their risk for postmenopausal breast cancer compared to those who watch their weight according to a new study. Earlier work has linked extra weight with increased breast cancer risk factors in this age group, but this particular study examined at the risk as it related to weight gained over time.
The U.S. incidence of cancer of the breast is one in eight, about 13% (or 13 out of every 100 women) over the course of a lifetime. Your own personal risk can be higher or lower, depending on your family and reproductive history, your lifestyle and environment. As of 2008, there are almost 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. alone.
For this work, the team collected data on over 72,000 women who participated in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial.
At the start of the work the subjects were between 55 and 75 years old, and 3,677 had been diagnosed with a postmenopausal breast cancer.
The team looked only at women who had cancer of the breast but had never taken hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause symptoms. By eliminating anyone who'd taken HRT (known to boost breast cancer risk), the researchers could better isolate weight as a risk factor.
Weight indeed did seem to play a role. The team found that a woman who'd gained about 30 pounds from age 20 to age 50 had a twofold increased risk of developing cancer of the breast after menopause as did a woman whose weight had remained stable over those years.
Of the women in the study, about 57% had raised their BMI by 5 kilograms per meter squared (kg/m2) over thirty years. To help you visualize... imagine a woman who is 5′4″ putting on about 30 pounds.
This type of increase brought the risk of developing cancer of the breast after menopause up by 88%, compared to women whose BMI was relatively stable during the same period. If you added this same amount of weight after 50, the risk of breast cancer went up 56% when compared to women who had a stable BMI during these years.
No matter when you add the weight, the risk for breast cancer seems to go up. What's more, the rise in risk isn't tied to becoming obese, but rather the weight gain itself. The extra pounds increase production of estrogen in all those extra fat cells, known to encourage the growth of cancer.
In terms of your own breast cancer risk factors, it appears that the factors within your own personal control - managing your weight in adulthood, staying active, eating right and limiting your alcohol intake - are proving to be more and more important.
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