Dr Neha Khandelwal, Senior Gynecologist Madhukar Rainbow Hospital
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 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. Postmenopausal obese women have a 20-40 per cent 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 BMI (body mass index ) 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 are breast cancer and obesity-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 that 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 tumour 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 “. Around 150 minutes of brisk walking, each week lowers one’s risk of getting breast cancer. 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.
So, this breast cancer awareness month, let each one of us take the campaign of reducing the disease, into our own hands. Exercise regularly and eat right to maintain a perfect BMI.
STAY FIT STAY BREAST CANCER-FREE.