EXCLUSIVE: Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021: Does obesity lead to breast cancer? Expert REVEALS
Managing weight is indeed becoming a challenge for most people due to a very busy lifestyle forcing them to eat out or eat junk and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Being overweight puts us at a high risk for a variety of diseases including cancer. There is a lot of evidence now that proves that being overweight or obese after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer.
Post-menopausal obese women have a 20-40 percent increase in the risk of developing the disease. This is, however, not true for younger women. Numerous studies have made the association between a higher body mass index (BMI) and breast cancer incidence very obvious. In fact, obesity and weight gain also increase the mortality from the disease, thus affecting breast cancer growth and metastasis or spread.
So, let's understand why and how breast cancer and obesity are related. Excess body fat increases the estrogen levels in a woman’s body and hence increases the risk of getting breast cancer. Estrogen is a hormone which can make hormone receptor positive breast cancers develop and grow. Even increased insulin levels in obese women have been linked to breast cancer. Moreover, increased plasma cholesterol in obese women leads to accelerated tumor formation. Obesity also leads to chronic low-level inflammation - a process by which the body’s immune function malfunctions and causes DNA damage and leads to breast cancer.
This association between obesity and breast cancer is not simple. All studies point to the fact that the risk is more in women who have put on more weight in adulthood and not those who have been overweight since childhood. Also, the risk is more in those who have extra fat in the waist area and not in the thighs or hips.
Also another very important observation is that being overweight increases the incidence of breast cancer recurrence as well in those who have been previously treated for the disease.
So what is the solution?
The American Cancer Society says that exercise is a “breast healthy habit". Ramping up your exercise routine is of utmost importance.
Also eating healthy and eating mindfully helps in controlling weight and reducing the risk in turn. Obesity is an important but completely preventable cause of not only breast cancer, but a variety of other diseases.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let us become more aware about the disease. Exercise regularly and eat right to maintain a perfect BMI.
About the author: Dr Neha Khandelwal