Watch Your Weight for Breast Health
Some breast cancer-fighting benefits of exercise are linked with its effect on overall body mass.
WHAT IS BODY MASS?
A Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 translates to being more than 30 pounds overweight.
This can increase the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
A BMI of less than 20 means that you have 33% less risk of becoming a breast cancer victim than a woman with a BMI of 30 or more if you are postmenopausal.
CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX
According to the 1998 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health:
- Obese men are 33% more likely to die of cancer than individuals of healthy weight.
- Obese women are 55% more likely to die of cancer.
FAT AND HORMONES
Before menopause, a hormone called estradiol is produced by the ovaries. Estradiol is the most potent form of human estrogen. After menopause the ovaries stop making this hormone and estradiol is formed within the body's fatty tissues. In obese postmenopausal women fat deposits produce high amounts of estradiol, which some studies link to increased risk of breast cancer.
Weight gain after menopause is associated with increased breast cancer risk. A regular exercise program helps reduces fat deposits. Women with less body fat can better keep the estradiol in their systems in line.
YOUNG AND THIN
The connection between BMI and premenopausal breast cancer is not as clear. Most studies have not found a relationship between obesity and breast cancer in premenopausal women. Some have reported an inverse relationship.
The thinnest women tend to have the greatest risk. So being a bit overweight won't increase your risk of breast cancer if you are premenopausal. The problem is that women who are heavy and premenopausal tend to increase their weight and BMI as they go through menopause. This puts them in the high risk group of obese, postmenopausal women.
Studies with the nutritional supplement Coenzyme Q10 (COQ10) have reported that the level of this enzyme in obese people is low. Taking this supplement has been linked to reduction in weight caused by increasing metabolism and the body's ability to burn fat.
One study provided some evidence that COQ10 may also be effective in the fight against breast cancer. Thirty two breast cancer patients were treated with megadoses of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and coenzyme Q10 (90 mg/day) as a supplement to conventional therapy and showed partial or complete remission of the cancer within three months.
This is not an endorsement of the supplement, but it is interesting that an enzyme that has been linked to increased metabolism and decreased body weight is also linked to possible remission in breast cancer.
The bottom line is that no matter what your age or menopause status, being overweight is not good news for general health or breast cancer prevention. A healthy diet and exercise is as important to staying breast healthy as a yearly mammogram.
Last updated May 1, 2017
also see -> Breast Cancer & Diet
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Can a Low-fat Diet Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?
Weight and Diet Linked To Poorer Breast Cancer Prognosis
Breast Cancer & Diet