A woman who puts on weight throughout her adult years has a higher risk of developing breast cancer, compared to a woman who has maintained a constant weight, according to an article published in Archives of Internal Medicine (JAMA/Archives), October 22 issue. The researchers explain that this research was carried out among women who did not take hormone therapy after the menopause.

The authors explain that it is already known that an obese woman has a higher risk of developing breast cancer after her menopause, as estrogen may accumulate in fat tissue, increasing the potential for initiating or promoting the growth of cancerous cells in the breast.

Jiyoung Ahn, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., and team looked at information from 99,039 postmenopausal women who had taken part in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Their body measurements, weight and ages 18, 25 and 50 were reported in 1996. The women were deemed to be either underweight, normal weight or overweight according to their BMI (body mass index).

By the end of 2000, 2,111 of them had developed breast cancer. For the women who did not have menopausal hormone therapy, gaining weight was linked to a raised risk of developing breast cancer for those aged 18-35, 35-50, and 50 to their current age (all three age groups), compared to women who maintained stable weights.

The authors explained “Because weight gain during adulthood mainly reflects the deposition of fat mass rather than lean body mass, weight gain potentially represents age-related metabolic change that may be important in breast cancer development. These findings may reinforce public health recommendations for the maintenance of a healthy weight throughout adulthood as a means of breast cancer prevention.”

“Adiposity, Adult Weight Change, and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk”
Jiyoung Ahn, PhD; Arthur Schatzkin, MD, DrPH; James V. Lacey Jr, PhD; Demetrius Albanes, MD; Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD; Kenneth F. Adams, PhD; Victor Kipnis, PhD; Traci Mouw, MPH; Albert R. Hollenbeck, PhD; Michael F. Leitzmann, MD, DrPH
Intern Med. 2007;167:2091-2102.
Click here to view abstract online

Written by: Christian Nordqvist