Weighing the odds: How obesity elevates breast cancer risk
(NaturalHealth365) Women who struggle with obesity are at higher risk for breast cancer, and a look at hormones like estrogen and androgen is providing some possible explanations. A recent study in Science Translational Medicine found some important insights.
Research shows that obesity, defined by a body mass index (BMI) of ≥30, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in women carrying a BRCA mutation.
Let’s dive into the study findings and explore how inflammation increases breast cancer risks.
BMI, DNA damage, and breast cancer risk in BRCA mutation carriers
The above-referenced study found a positive correlation between BMI and DNA damage in the normal breast epithelia of BRCA mutation carriers. BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene 1) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene 2) are genes responsible for generating proteins essential in the repair of damaged DNA. Each individual possesses two copies of these genes – one inherited from each parent. Referred to as tumor suppressor genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 can lead to cancer development when subjected to specific alterations known as harmful variants or mutations.
Additionally, RNA sequencing revealed obesity-related changes in the breast adipose microenvironment, including the activation of estrogen biosynthesis, affecting neighboring breast epithelial cells.
Furthermore, experiments on breast tissue explants from BRCA mutation carriers demonstrated that blocking estrogen biosynthesis or estrogen receptor activity reduced DNA damage. Factors associated with obesity, such as leptin and insulin, increased DNA damage, and inhibiting their signaling decreased DNA damage.
Breast cancer worsens with inflammation and androgen production
The root causes of breast cancer can vary based on an individual’s health condition, with factors such as high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and chronic low-grade inflammation playing significant roles.
Individuals grappling with obesity often exhibit elevated levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6), a cytokine associated with heightened inflammation. Research indicates that administering IL-6 to individuals with breast cancer can activate androgen receptors.
Obesity fosters an environment of increased inflammation, leading to elevated IL-6 levels. This heightened inflammation, in turn, sensitizes androgen receptors, intensifying signals that fuel the growth and spread of breast cancer – this phenomenon occurs even in environments with low estrogen.