Recently, new research, which was funded by the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study, explores the factors determining the risk of developing breast cancer in women. More precisely, the researchers were interested in assessing how weight fluctuations may play a role.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in women and the number one cause of cancer-related deaths. According to the World Health Organization, over two million women around the world are affected by breast cancer.
Statistically, approximately 627,000 women died as a consequence of breast cancer. This makes up fifteen percent of cancer-related deaths.
Regardless of all the health initiatives and awareness campaigns around the globe, health experts have noted that the number of cases of breast cancer has seemed to increase especially in economically developed areas.
For effective treatment of breast cancer, detection plays a fundamental role. Usually, women who are diagnosed in the early stages of cancer have successful treatments and higher chances of survival.
On the other hand, women who are diagnosed in late stages, mostly due to lack of resources either for diagnosis or treatment are likely to have an increased number of complications and lower chances of survival.
At the moment, the treatment options for breast cancer patients include radiotherapy, surgery, and systematic therapy. In many cases, a combination of all available therapies is required.
The majority of the time, the intensity and stage of the cancerous tumors are the main contributing factors in deciding which therapy to go for.
In addition to developing new techniques for the treatment and control of breast cancer, there are ongoing clinical trials on determining the causes of cancer and its prevention in the first place.
The new study, whose findings appear in the International Journal of Cancer, looks at how weight gain before the menopausal stage can impact the risk of developing breast cancer in women.
Prior to this study, it was difficult for researchers to explore how weight gain can affect the chances of having breast cancer because of a low number of cases of cancer in younger women.
The researchers in the new study assessed data of around 628,463 from different studies conducted around the world. The women’s weight was noted at two or more ages. There were also regular follow-ups for around ten years.
Other confounding factors that can impact the findings were also kept in mind and looked at by the researchers. By the end of the study period, 10,886 out of 628,463 women developed breast cancer.
The researchers discovered that gaining at least ten kilograms of weight from age eighteen to twenty-four and forty-five to fifty-four reduced the risk of developing breast cancer.
Secondly, weight fluctuations between the ages of thirty-five to forty-four had no effect on the development of breast cancer.
These results can highlight weight gain as a potential factor associated with the risk of having breast cancer. The lead author of the study and the senior staff scientist in cancer epidemiology at The Institute of Cancer Research, Dr. Minouk Schoemaker, states:
“The link between a higher body mass index and a lower breast cancer risk before menopause has puzzled researchers for a while now. In our large-scale international study, we were able to tease out the effects in more detail than ever before […] we know that the protective effect of a higher weight is reversed after menopause when being heavier increases women’s breast cancer risk.”
He concluded the study in the words “Women shouldn’t consider gaining weight as a way to prevent breast cancer — but understanding the biological reasons behind the link between weight and breast cancer risk could, in future, lead to new ways to prevent the disease.”