It turns out, there are more (substantial) reasons to try keeping excess weight off other than your next beach vacation. Maintaining a healthy body weight is also an important factor in reducing your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. And there is science to prove it! Maintaining a healthy body weight contributes to a 50% reduction in lifetime risk for post-menopausal women. While some studies show that a slightly higher BMI in premenopausal women may have some benefit, the recommendation is that women keep a healthy body weight pre- and post-menopause. Most breast cancers occur after menopause, and any weight you gain before menopause you will likely carry into your postmenopausal years. Therefore, you should aim to build healthy habits in order to avoid weight gain all throughout your adult life.
Hormones + weight
The effect of weight on breast cancer risk is likely due to differences in the levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Although these natural hormones are important in the body, they can encourage some breast cancers to grow. For women who are overweight or obese after menopause, the increased risk of breast cancer is likely due to a higher level of estrogen in the body. After menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, but the body does continue to make some of the hormone correlating to the amount of body fat you have. The more fat tissue in your body, the higher your levels of estrogen are likely to be. This, in turn, increases your lifetime risk of breast cancer. Fat also contributes negatively to the body’s ability to fight cancer by decreasing the immune response and increasing inflammation through increased glucose and insulin in the body responses, both of which are involved in cancer.
Rethink encourages young women to know and manage their Body Mass Index (BMI) and to consult your doctor if you have any concerns, or if you are not falling within the “healthy” range. You can calculate your BMI easily here. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help you to maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your lifetime risk of breast cancer, as well as other diseases like diabetes, and obesity. Your breasts will thank you.
Some helpful tips to maintain a healthy body weight:
- Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day.
- Eat a healthy diet. Opt for a low-fat, high-fibre diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, and try to limit red meat and animal fats
What you need to know:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout your life can reduce excess levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are linked to some types of breast cancer post-menopause
- Know your BMI, and work to keep it within a healthy range
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Lean. Hard. Tight. Stay fit to reduce your lifetime risk.