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According to the Mayo Clinic, there are numerous factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer including age, family history, genetics and even factors such as the timing of your first period and the beginning of menopause.
But there’s one risk factor many women overlook…
In fact, many women don’t know that carrying around extra weight could be the factor that lands them with a breast cancer diagnosis.
And even though the medical community has long known that there is an association between obesity and increased breast cancer risk, researchers weren’t exactly sure why — until now.
Fat tissue, inflammatory molecules and breast cancer aggression
Few studies have taken the time to evaluate the role of fat tissue when it comes to cancer development and spread — a big oversight since fat tissue is already known to release inflammatory molecules that can increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
These inflammatory molecules are known as extracellular vesicles, or EVs, and they can carry even more inflammatory molecules and other substances, including enzymes and molecules that are involved in cell-to-cell communication — communication that cancer cells need to spread.
Armed with this information, researchers from State University of Rio de Janeiro set out to determine the relationship between obesity, EVs and breast cancer.
Fat tissue was obtained from obese patients who had undergone weight-loss surgery and from lean people undergoing plastic surgery. These tissues were incubated in culture for 24 hours and the amount and type of substances secreted from both were compared. The analysis showed that the fat tissue from obese patients secreted higher amounts of inflammatory molecules and also produced a greater number of small vesicles, which may increase breast cancer risk.
“When the extracellular vesicles carrying inflammatory molecules interact with breast cancer cells, we see they are able to modify their behavior, so that they become more aggressive with increased capacity to invade other tissues.” Lead researcher Prof Barja-Fidalgo explained.
The researchers concluded that these findings demonstrate how obesity contributes to increased breast cancer risk, as well as why obese women are more likely to have a worse prognosis since fat tissue can increase tumor malignancy.
Losing weight to lower your breast cancer risk
Professor Barja-Fidalgo noted that “Identifying these harmful fat tissue secretions in the blood of obese patients could be a new parameter to be monitored, as an indicator of cancer progress. Understanding the content of the vesicles released by fat tissue during obesity may provide new therapeutic targets and improve cancer treatment.”
That’s exciting news as far as the future of cancer treatments go — and as far as understanding exactly why weight affects breast cancer risk.
But the bottom line is that if you want to protect yourself from breast cancer, losing any extra weight must be part of your plan. In fact, a previous study showed just how much weight loss decreases risk…
Investigators from the American Cancer Society, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and others used the Pooling Project of Prospective Studies of Diet and Cancer (DCPP) to assess how weight loss impacts breast cancer risk. Their analysis included more than 180,000 women aged 50 and older and assessed their weight three times over approximately 10 years: at study enrollment; after about five years; then again about four years later.
They found women who lost 2 to 4.5 kg (about 4.4 to 10 lbs.) had a 13 percent lower risk than women with stable weight. Women who lost 4.5 to 9 kg (10- 20 lbs.) had a 16 percent lower risk; and women who lost 9 kg or more (20+ lbs.) had a 26 percent lower risk.
Personally, I love these 22 weight loss tips from Dr. Michael Cutler, a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience, since he takes a practical approach to losing weight.
But I’m also all about “aids” that give me an edge because weight loss, regardless of what anyone says, it’s no walk in the park. Here are a few of my favorite helpers:
- Check out these three weight loss supplements scientifically proven to work.
- Take a vitamin D supplement with an adequate dosage (up to 5,000IU daily). It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory vitamin and most of us don’t get enough as it is. And research has shown that when it comes to cancer prevention, vitamin D levels matter.
- Lower your breast cancer risk by half while you’re working to shed those extra pounds, by drinking oolong tea. Here are the details.
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Breast Cancer — Mayo Clinic
U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics — BREASTCANCER.ORG