Weight loss reduces breast cancer risk by over 30 percent

Weight loss reduces breast cancer risk by over 30 percent
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(Naturalhealth365) Breast cancer – one of the leading causes of death from cancer among women – claimed over 41,000 lives in 2014 alone.  Yet, we know that weight loss could help thousands of women to avoid this dreadful condition.

In truth, researchers have long known that obesity, which currently affects close to 40 percent of women in the United States, is a known risk factor for breast cancer – but the amount of weight loss necessary to begin lowering the risk was unknown.  That is, until last month – when a new study revealed that shedding even modest amounts of excess weight can decrease the odds of developing this lethal disease.

Just-released NIH study yields good news regarding breast cancer prevention

The eleven-year study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, involved over 61,000 postmenopausal women. The women – none of whom had a diagnosis or history of breast cancer when the study began – were weighed at the beginning of the study, weighed again after three years, and then weighed at the study’s end.

The participants’ BMI, or body mass index, averaged 26.7. (A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered “normal,” with 25 to 29.9 being classified as “overweight,” and over 30 designated as “obese”.)

In the course of the study, roughly 3,000 of the 61,000 participants developed invasive breast cancer.

But, the encouraging findings came when researchers compared women who had lost weight with those who had not. More than 8,100 women succeeded in losing 5 percent or more of their body weight – a mere 8.5 pounds for a 170-pound woman) and this loss was associated with a 12 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

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Losing weight directly correlates with lowered breast cancer risk

The more weight the women lost, the more they lowered their odds of getting breast cancer.
When women lost 15 percent or more of their body weight – a loss of about 25 pounds for a 170-pound woman – the risk of breast cancer plummeted by 37 percent.

Over 12,000 women gained weight in the course of the study. In this group, the team noted an alarming 54 percent increase in the risk of developing a specific type of breast cancer known as “triple negative.”

Although the findings didn’t prove that weight loss itself directly caused the lowered risk, a strong association was clear. Oncologist and lead author Dr. Rowan Chlebowski explained that factors connected with weight loss – such as reduced inflammation – could account for the lowered risk.

Dr. Chlebowski commented that it’s not necessary to lose massive amounts of weight in order to lower risk – as even modest weight loss can have important health consequences. The study, he noted, provided evidence that “a weight loss strategy can be effective in lowering breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.”

(While breast cancer can strike young women as well, four out of five cases occur in postmenopausal women).

Additional studies show that weight loss and physical activity decrease breast cancer risk

A new meta-analysis of 139 studies published in Clinical Breast Cancer showed that physical activity significantly reduced the odds of breast cancer – cutting risk by an average of 22 percent for both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Although all types of physical activity were beneficial, the team found that high-intensity physical activity – which reduced risk by 27 percent – was the most effective.

The team recommended that – in addition to reducing calories – women should get three to four hours of aerobic exercise a week, along with strength training.  Corroborating the results of the NIH study, the authors reported that losing weight could indeed reduce breast cancer risk.

Scientists have found that excess fat tissue, over time, can begin to function almost as a separate body organ, with pronounced effects on overall health. For example, fat cells, or adipocytes, produce hormones (such as estrogen) that may promote the growth of tumors.

The takeaway? Reducing body fat leads to less estrogen being produced, thereby lowering the risk of breast cancer.

Control weight by reducing inflammation and balancing hormones

For many, losing weight is not as simple as merely cutting calories. Hormones that are “out of whack” can make shedding pounds difficult.

For instance, the body becoming resistant to leptin – the hormone that normally regulates hunger – can cause an out-of-control appetite. And, declining thyroid hormone levels reduce metabolic rate and contribute to weight gain. Hence, balancing and regulating hormones should be the first order of the day.

When it comes to losing weight, chronic inflammation is also a major hurdle. (Note: The inflammatory biomarker CRP, or C-reactive protein, inhibits leptin – the very substance necessary for controlling appetite and weight.)

For this reason, weight loss experts advise a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods and supplements.

Turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea polyphenols, grapefruit, capsaicin from chili peppers and mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) fruit have all shown great promise in fighting inflammation and obesity in clinical trials.

Studies also support the ability of saffron extract, pine nut oil and the amino acid L-tryptophan to suppress hunger signals.  Green coffee extract, along with seaweed extracts from kelp and bladderwrack, helps to reduce after-meal glucose spikes and slow the absorption of carbohydrates.

Of course, it’s imperative to minimize exposure to environmental toxins such as BPA (bisphenol-A) and glyphosate. In addition to their carcinogenic effects, recent research shows that these are obesogens – compounds that promote weight gain.

Finally, eliminate or sharply reduce the use of refined sugar, preservatives and processed foods.

Unquestionably, obesity raises the risk of breast cancer – along with risk of other serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. The good news: it doesn’t take much of a weight loss to start the odds moving the other way: downward, and in your favor.

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