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Weight Gain in the Lead Up to Menopause and Increased Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk

Review on November 10, 2009

Menopause symptoms overview

Menopause is a particularly difficult time in a woman's life when a whole host of symptoms come together to create an uncomfortable and irritating year at best. Unfortunately the most dangerous side effects of menopause are only just starting to be researched in depth and the results of such early research show that changes during menopause can make women more susceptible to breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart conditions. It is clear however that the side effects of menopause can be greatly affected by lifestyle choices, including exercise, stress and weight gain. As these lifestyle choices can be changed they could be the key to improving women's health post menopause.

A recent study conducted over an 8 year period has looked into the increased risks of breast cancer in women who gain weight during the years leading up to menopause. As many as 99,039 women took part in this study which followed weight gain history throughout the women's lives and analyzed the number of breast cancer cases in the group by 2001.

Menopause Risk

 There were 2111 cases of breast cancer in the patients who took part in this study and researchers found that risk was increased by weight gain from as young as 18 years old. This risk was also present in women who gained weight at any age until menopause, although a sharp increase in risk was noted in those women who had gained weight later in life, closer to the age of 50. As many of the women had taken some type of hormone therapy during menopause the researchers asked the women to note the type and length of their hormone therapy so that this factor could be incorporated into the findings of the study. They found that use of hormone therapy did in fact cut the risk of breast cancer even if weight gain had occurred, however breast cancer risk was found to rise again after the termination of hormone therapy treatment.

This research illustrates the importance of a healthy lifestyle throughout life, not just when the body is in transition, such as at menopause. Breast cancer is a serious threat to women and the fact that changes in weight from the age of 18 could have implications on breast cancer risk for the rest of a woman's life is shocking however this research also demonstrates it is never too late to introduce healthy living and reap the benefits well past menopause. It's important for women to consult their doctor in order to seek help about losing weight or treating the problems of postmenopause.