Diet and exercise may help post-menopausal women reduce the risk of breast cancer, according to new research published in the journal Cancer Research earlier this month.
The study found a link between weight and tumour growth; normal-weight women see their bodies absorb excess fat and glucose through the healthy liver, mammary and skeletal tissues, it showed. By contrast, excess calories in obese women are taken up by tumours and are used to fuel their growth.
The study's lead author Erin Giles, from the University of Colorado Cancer Center, said that obese women displayed an abnormal metabolic response to fat and sugar that, in many ways, was like the response seen in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Obese women were also found to have elevated levels of the progesterone receptor that is linked to accelerated growth of tumour cells.
According to Giles, women could control their diet and use weight management throughout the menopause to lower the risk of breast cancer.
Gaining weight around the time of the menopause is dangerous because this leads to a higher risk of fast, aggressive types of breast cancer, according to the researchers. Whilst drugs can help women manage the risk of breast cancer, changing their lifestyle and controlling their weight could help them reduce this risk, the study concluded.
The study was based on previous statistics showing that obese women after the menopause are at a higher risk of breast cancers and poorer clinical outcomes than lean women in the same age group.