Subscribe to News
Tuesday, October 11, 2005 - Losing Weight Can Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer
Losing Weight Can Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer 
Note to Editor: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

VINELAND, NJ (October 10) – Researchers are now urging women to lose weight to decrease their risk of breast cancer. Increased body fat leads to high estrogen levels, which could promote the disease after menopause.

A study conducted by the American Cancer Society (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, February 2004) followed 62,756 women between the ages of 50 to 74 over seven years. It concluded that women who gained 21 to 30 pounds after age 18 were 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who gained five pounds or less. Women who had gained more than 70 pounds doubled their risk.

“Being obese before and after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer,” said Dr. Joseph Fanelle, Medical Director of the South Jersey Healthcare Frank and Edith Scarpa Cancer Pavilion. “Women with a high proportion of body fat produce more estrogen, which is also a risk factor.”

In a more recent survey, scientists revealed a link between weight loss in early adulthood and a decreased risk of breast cancer. Studies suggest that women with gene mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are generally associated with an increased risk, are 65 percent less likely to develop the disease if they lose ten pounds between the ages of 18 and 30.

Published August 19, 2005, in Breast Cancer Research, this study surveyed 2,000 women in five different countries with questionnaires about their weight at age 18, 30 and 40. Women who gained more than ten pounds between ages 18 and 30 were 44 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Researchers found that weight changes in women between ages 30 and 40 did not affect the risk of developing the disease before or after menopause.

The overall impact of a high-fat diet in breast cancer prevention is unclear. Some fats may actually protect against the disease, such as the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts, flaxseed and certain types of fish. The risks associated with diet may also depend heavily on the woman’s age range. Low-fat diets, however, can lead to weight loss, which lowers the risk of developing breast cancer.

Other risk factors include:

Age: Women over age 60 are at greater risk.

Personal and Family History: Women who have had breast cancer or who have a family history of breast cancer are at greater risk, however, most women diagnosed with the disease have no family history.

Reproductive and Menstrual History: Women who started menstruating at an early age, had a child after 40 or not at all, and women who began menopause after 55 are at greater risk.

Race: Breast cancer occurs more often in white women than in Latinos, Asians or African-Americans.

Alcoholic Beverages: Studies suggest there is a link between the amount of alcoholic beverages a woman consumes and her risk of breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute recommends that women lower their risk and maintain a healthy weight by limiting foods that are high in fat, eating five to nine servings a day of plant-based foods—which offer cancer fighting nutrients—and exercising.

“Women who are physically inactive tend to be at a greater risk of developing breast cancer,” said Fanelle.

Maintaining a healthy weight in early adulthood is especially important. Engaging in moderate exercise at least three hours a week promotes weight loss and reduces breast cancer risk. Similarly, women who have a long history of being physically active cut their risk by one third.

To learn more about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment options, call the SJH Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Pavilion at (856) 575-4430.

SJH Cancer Services, located in the Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Pavilion, have been been affiliated with the Fox Chase Cancer Center since 1995. SJH offers the only cancer program in Cumberland, Salem, or Gloucester counties designated as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons – Commission on Cancer.

The SJH team of board-certified physicians, registered radiation therapists and nationally-certified oncology nurses have provided state-of-the-art radiation therapy, medical oncology and cancer support services to thousands of patients in the region for more than 25 years.

SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents.