Obesity and Breast Cancer | In the United States, 70 percent of all postmenopausal women are either overweight or obese as a result of being sedentary and eating an unhealthy diet. Over the past several years, researchers and scientists have found that excess weight can significantly increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
While there are several factors that can increase a person’s risk for breast cancer, you can lower your risk for the disease significantly if you make an effort to lose excess body weight. When you’re overweight or obese, your body will experience hormonal changes, chronic inflammation, and insulin resistance — all of which increase the risk for breast cancer.
Research also shows that most postmenopausal women who are diagnosed with breast cancer end up gaining weight throughout the weeks and months following their diagnosis, which may be due in part to stress, new prescription medications, and lack of exercise. Weight gain that occurs after a breast cancer diagnosis can lead to worsened health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease and can make treating breast cancer more difficult.
Women who understand the link between obesity and breast cancer can take steps now to lose weight and become healthier to lower their risk for breast cancer. Knowing how obesity and breast cancer are linked can also empower women to take control of their weight and their health following a breast cancer diagnosis.
The best way to lose excess weight is to eat healthier foods and exercise regularly. If diet and exercise fail to help you lose weight, the next best alternative is weight-loss surgery. Gastric banding, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, and sleeve gastrectomy are all types of weight-loss surgeries that can help you lose weight and become healthier if you’re experiencing difficulties with weight loss.
Obesity-related breast cancer risk factors
While there are some breast cancer risk factors that you cannot change, such as genetics and family history of breast cancer, there are other lifestyle behaviors you can stop practicing now to drastically reduce your risk for breast cancer.
Women who consume at least one alcoholic beverage per day are at higher risk for breast cancer — especially those who drink between two and five drinks per day. Women who drink alcohol regularly may also be obese or at risk for obesity, since most alcoholic beverages are fattening and high in calories. Additionally, lack of physical activity increases the risk of breast cancer, as well as an unhealthy diet high in fat.
Preventing breast cancer
If you suspect you may be at risk for breast cancer based on your current lifestyle habits, make an appointment with your health care provider to undergo breast cancer exams and screenings. Your doctor can also give you insight as to how much weight you need to lose to become healthier, and will recommend that you start engaging in regular physical activity.
To lower your risk for breast cancer, start exercising regularly, and eat healthy, whole fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean protein. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes per week if you engage in vigorous training and exercise routines.