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How Breast Cancer In Women Is Related To Body Fat

Updated on January 14, 2012

During her lifetime, one woman in every eight, living in the United States, will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though advances in medicine are improving treatments, and increasing longevity for breast cancer survivors, the statistic is alarming.

We are constantly being warned about the affect of excess body fat on high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Does it increase a woman's chance of getting breast cancer. It seems that it may.

Although women's breasts contain a large amount of fat, large breasts, in themselves, do not increase the propensity for breast cancer. However, fat in other parts of the body does.

Studies indicate that large women, over one hundred and seventy-five pounds, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer before menopause, but a higher risk after menopause. These statistics are related to woman who weight less than one hundred and thirty pounds.

This changed incidence of breast cancer risk is possibly related to the fact that larger premenopausal woman tend to have lower levels of estrogen which decreases the risk. Later, after menopause, these heavier woman have higher levels of estrogen even though the ovaries are no longer producing it. This is because other hormones present in fatty tissues can synthesize the estrogen hormone.

The relationship between excess body fat and breast cancer, seems to relate to whether the body is apple-shaped or pear-shaped. Apple-shaped woman carry their body fat around the abdomen and pear-shaped woman carry their fat around the hips and buttocks.

Woman who are apple-shaped, carrying their fat around the abdomen, seem to have a higher incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer than do pear-shaped woman. This is a tendency and not a hard and fast rule. The relationship is most evident in apple-shaped women who have a family history of breast cancer.

Why the risk of breast cancer in apple-shaped woman increases after menopause, is not totally clear. It seems that woman who had a slim start in life may put on excess pounds as they later slow down. This weight accumulates around the waist where the fat can then produce estrogen thus increasing the breast cancer risk.

Whether increased body fat is a minor or major contributor to the risk of breast cancer, it should be controlled. As woman age, it becomes more difficult to lost abdominal fat so the sooner we address the problem the better will be the outcome.

Diet and exercise are the factors that most affect to our body composition. A good diet, rich in lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, together with regular exercise will keep the pounds at bay. Vegetables are healthiest if served raw or lightly steamed. Carotenoids, powerful antioxidants, which occur naturally in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, and tomatoes, have been found beneficial to the health of breast cancer survivors.

As we are all responsible for our own health, we should do all in our power to protect and preserve it.


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    • gmmurgirl profile image

      Shan Moore 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you so much for this great information. Now I really have to get serious losing my extra weight!

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for your comments cgreen - it certainly is a horrible disease and leads to so many other problems - regards, B.

    • cgreen7090 profile image


      7 years ago from Tennessee

      Good information. Thanks for raising awareness of this horrible disease.


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