How is being overweight and breast cancer linked?
If you follow health news then you know that research has shown a link between being overweight and an increased risk breast cancer. The link is only just beginning to be understood by scientists and it is revealing some facts that should have a very positive influence on reducing the instances of breast cancer worldwide and obesity rates. The only way to reduce the risk of breast cancer related to obesity is to lose the weight and keep it off. Losing the weight doesn’t absolutely proof your body against breast cancer, as there can be many other factors that can raise your risk as well. However, it is a factor that you can control (for most people, that is).
Overweight and obese women — defined as having a BMI (body mass index) over 25 — have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight also can increase the risk of the breast cancer coming back (recurrence) in women who have had the disease. – breastcancer.org
Being overweight is not linked to all breast cancers
To understand how weight and breast cancer are linked, it is easiest to begin with how they are not connected together. Scientists have found that the link exists in women after menopause, putting most of the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer that is connected to obesity in the 50s and above. There has been some evidence that being slightly overweight before menopause is not linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and it may actually help to fight early breast cancer. So why does being overweight go from being something good to something bad?
Hormones, fat cells and breast cancer
Fat cells have a high level of estrogen receptor cells inside them. This means that they can store high levels of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is needed by the body in varying degrees throughout life for reproduction. Menopause is when a woman’s body changes, the reproductive cycle shuts down and estrogen ceases to be produced in the levels that would be needed to reproduce. Fat cells that have stored excess estrogen keep an abnormally high level in the body. Many instances of breast cancer involve something called “hormone-positive-receptors.” This means the cancer cell needs the estrogen in order to grow. The presence of the estrogen laden fat cell in the body acts as a fuel source. Since the estrogen is not being used by any other system, it is all available for the use of the cancer cells.
The most dangerous areas to be overweight
Not all areas that hold fat will produce the same breast cancer risk. If you are fatty deposits around your thighs and hips, your risk for hormone positive receptor breast cancer is not as high as if the fat is located on your abdomen. While it is still uncertain why this particular type of fat cell locates on the abdominal area, it is known that this abdominal fat cell holds much higher amounts of estrogen than fat cells that will be located in any other area of the body.
How to lose weight and lower your risk
Some women will immediately run out to purchase that latest abdominal exerciser or focus their whole routines on sit-ups and crunches but that is not going to help you lose the weight that is putting you at risk for breast cancer. There is no way to “target” weight loss to a specific area of the body. Fat is lost when the body consumes it as fuel. For most people, it begins with fat in the extremities and then moves inward, ending with the last reserves located in the abdominal area. It is not a linear progression, but the metabolism spreads out its consumption so a little is taken from everything at a time. This is the body’s way of protecting itself from starvation. It is also why it is harder and slower to lose belly fat than fat from your arms and legs.
The best way to lose weight is to do whole body exercises and to change your eating habits. To keep weight off you have to remain physically active and adopt healthy living practices. The number one reason why so many people regain the weight they have worked so hard to lose is that they adopt a temporary fitness routine, but never change the longstanding living habits. When their fitness goals are reached, they return to the way they were living before and regain the weight. To lessen your risk of weight gain related breast cancer, change your lifestyle and change your approach to fitness.