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Breast Cancer Risk linked to Menopause Weight Gain

Review on April 03, 2009

As many women enter menopause they find that they experience weight gain. As well as creating body image issues, this weight gain can also cause other symptoms of menopause to become more frequent or severe. Medical studies have found that increased BMI (Body Mass Index) often increases estrogen levels causing the body to react with a range of uncomfortable symptoms.

Though it has been apparent for a long time that weight gain in later life was connected to the onset of menopause, it wasn't until recently that doctors started to understand what negative affects such weight gain might have upon a woman. weight gain breast cancer.

Weight gain cancer news

A joint research project undertaken by the Brigham and Women's Hospital in the UK and Harvard Medical School, Boston, studied 87,000 menopausal women, and looked into the long term effects of weight gain and the possible threat of breast cancer due to such weight gain.

Over 26 years, the researchers recorded any weight gain or loss for each woman since the age of 18. Another group of 50,000 women were assessed for weight gain from menopause onwards to establish whether or not it had a different effect on breast cancer risks.

Researchers found that women who had a weight gain of around 55 pounds from their 18th birthday until they were 44 had an increased risk of cancer by about 45%. Women who suffered from a weight gain of around 22 pounds since the onset of menopause had an 18% increased risk of breast cancer. These findings obviously highlight the increased risk of breast cancer from any kind of weight gain, but it is interesting to see how a relatively low weight gain during menopause can raise breast cancer risk by so much.

This research also highlighted that, women who lost weight during their life or maintained a healthy weight cut their chances of developing breast cancer by 57%. Heather Elissen, who led the research team for this study, notes that, 'Our calculations suggest that weight gain since the age of 18 years and since menopause contributes substantially to the incidence of breast cancer, and many cases could be avoided by maintaining weight through adult life.

This new research throws further importance on maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle during menopause. However, the difficulty many women have in losing weight during and after menopause may also point to the importance of which a healthy weight throughout a women's life.

Sources:
  • 'Weight Gain', American Medical Association, Harvard Medical School Boston, U.S. and Brigham and Women's Hospital, U.K., Nurses Health Study, 2006.