07/21/2006 - News

Weight gain increases cancer risk in women after menopause

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Weight gain increases cancer risk in women after menopause

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

Women who gain weight as they age, especially if they do not take hormone replacement, can have a 45 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.
Weight loss after the menopause lowers circulating estrogen and so it may reduce the risk of breast cancer in this way. And we also know that weight gain since early adulthood increases breast cancer risk. Less is known, however, of the link between weight gain in later life and breast cancer.

A team at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School have put out a new report on the Nurses' Health Study which looks at weight gain from age 18 and weight gain after menopause. Those who gained 55 pounds or more since age 18 had a 45 per cent increased risk of cancer. This was compared to those who maintained their weight. The link was greatest among those who had never taken hormone replacement.

What is more, those gaining 22 pounds or more since menopause had an 18 per cent bigger risk. Losing weight was linked with a decreased risk. Clearly, these findings provide a huge incentive to women of any age to keep the weight off.

Journal of the American Medical Association 12th July 2006 Volume 296 pages 193-201

Created on: 07/21/2006
Reviewed on: 07/21/2006

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