In many articles on our website, we review the ongoing evidence that shows the clear link between obesity and breast cancer and weight loss and reduced cancer risk. The simple message in many of these research studies is, if you are a post-menopausal woman, weight loss and healthy diet will reduce your breast cancer risk. There is also another message. Cancer is a complexity. While weight loss and healthy diet are good lifestyle adaptations, they are only part of an overall health plan.
Weight loss in reducing breast cancer risk
A December 2019 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (1) from the Epidemiology Research Program, American Cancer Society examined the role of weight loss in reducing breast cancer risk in women over 50. The highlights of this research suggests that: sustained weight loss, even modest amounts, is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women aged over 50. Therefore, breast cancer prevention may be a strong weight loss motivator for the two-thirds of American women who are overweight or obese.
A January 2020 study from Poland discusses not only weight loss but dietary modifications that can help reduce breast cancer risk. Here is what this team of researchers wrote in the medical journal In vivo:(2)
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women around the world and the leading cause of cancer-related death among women. The knowledge about modifiable risk factors, such as diet, can be an acceptable, cheap and non-pharmacological prevention tool. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between dietary fat, dietary fatty acids, fish intake, and breast cancer in women.
This investigation revealed:
Consumption of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) in amounts over 10% of total energy (food) intake was associated with a significantly lower risk of breast cancer compared to low intake of polyunsaturated fats.
Low omega-3/ omega-6 ratio, fish consumption less than once every six months and being overweight were associated with increased risk of breast cancer.
The suggestion of this research is women should consider losing weight with a diet rich in healthy fats (10% of your daily calories) in the form of fish oils, as this diet may significantly decreased risk of breast cancer.
The simple message of these two new research studies is that weight loss will help reduce breast cancer risk and that doctors should use this as a motivation to help women over the age of 50 maintain proper body weight. But there is a more complex message that should be offered.
Incorporating weight loss into a preventative health program
A November 2019 (3) study from the Imperial College London, St. Mary’s Campus, the University of Leeds, and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey reviewed the “complex associations between energy balance-related factors (how much food you take in compare to how much of that food you convert into energy) and breast cancer risk.”
In other words depending on your personal body make up, weight loss or maintaining proper body weight would be A key factor in preventing breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence, made stronger by incorporating weight loss into a preventative health program. Let’s explore this study for some suggestions on that healthy lifestyle:
In this study the doctors examined, physical activity, sedentary behavior, body mass index (BMI), waist and hip circumferences, waist-to-hip ratio, and weight change and pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in 126 previously published studies comprising over 22,900 premenopausal and 103,000 postmenopausal breast cancer cases.
Higher physical activity was inversely associated with both pre- and postmenopausal breast cancers, whereas increased sitting time was positively associated with postmenopausal breast cancer. (The more physical activity the better, the more you sit, the worse).
Although higher early adult BMI (ages 18-30 years) was inversely associated with pre- and postmenopausal breast cancers, adult weight gain and greater body adiposity increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, and the increased risk was evident for HR+ but not HR- breast cancers, and among never but not current users of postmenopausal hormones.
Let’s stop to explain.
If you were heavy in your younger years, 18-30 you would be at an increasing risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
BUT if you added more weight as you got older, this increased your risk for developing breast cancer.
A risk recurrence of breast cancer was made worse in women who were HR+ or Hormone Receptor Positive, meaning that their cancers would grow in response to message from either the estrogen or progesterone in their bodies. Add to that if you never took post-menopausal synthetic hormones or you are currently not taking post-menopausal synthetic hormones you had little to NO increased risk. So now we have a hormonal factor to understand.
Reducing breast cancer risk
There are many factors that can reduce breast cancer risk. If you are overweight, weight reduction is a good start. However there are hormone issues, inflammatory factors, and other factors that can be addressed.
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, our treatments are focused on reducing inflammation, enhancing the cellular immune response, and inactivating cancer stem cells since these are the cells that cause cancer recurrences and are much more harmful than the actual tumor cells—all with the goal of improving quality of life, strength and vigor, and extending life span. We place particular emphasis on an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and biologic agents that quiet the inflammatory pathways since inflammation has been found to foster the growth of cancer cells.
Most of our patients have already been through the rigors of conventional treatments but either experienced untoward side effects or unsatisfactory outcomes as the cancer continued to grow. The sooner we begin treatment, the better, since there is usually less damage to the immune system and to the vital organs. Your body then has a better chance to recover.
Our program emphasizes the concept of Thriving While Surviving. We strive to transform cancer from an acute disease into more of a chronic illness, one that can be lived with for many months or even years.
If you would like to explore more information, please contact our office so we can start a conversation with you.
1 Teras LR, Patel AV, Wang M, Yaun SS, Anderson K, Brathwaite R, Caan BJ, Chen Y, Connor AE, Eliassen AH, et al. Sustained weight loss and risk of breast cancer in women ≥50 years: a pooled analysis of prospective data. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2019 Dec 13. pii: djz226. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djz226. [Epub ahead of print]
2 DYDJOW-BENDEK DO, ZAGOŹDŹON P. Total Dietary Fats, Fatty Acids, and Omega-3/Omega-6 Ratio as Risk Factors of Breast Cancer in the Polish Population–a Case-Control Study. In Vivo. 2020 Jan 1;34(1):423-31.
3 Chan DS, Abar L, Cariolou M, Nanu N, Greenwood DC, Bandera EV, McTiernan A, Norat T. World Cancer Research Fund International: Continuous Update Project—systematic literature review and meta-analysis of observational cohort studies on physical activity, sedentary behavior, adiposity, and weight change and breast cancer risk. Cancer Causes & Control. 2019 Nov 1:1-8.