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Weight Loss After Age 50 Really Lowers Risk of Breast Cancer

Many, many women experience weight gain after menopause, with many experiencing "belly rolls" for the first time in their life. All women say that it is especially hard to lose weight after menopause, even though there are many health reasons to do so (e.g. postmenopausal weight gain is a cause of breast cancer).

A recent large study of women over the age of 50 (following them for 10 years) may offer extra inducement to try for weight loss. The main finding of the research was that weight loss after the age of 50, and especially if the weight is kept off, is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer.

The researchers found that the lower rates of breast cancer is linear - meaning the more weight is lost and kept off, the lower the risk of breast cancer. And even if some (but not all ) is gained back, they were still at a lower risk of breast cancer than a woman whose weight stays stable after 50. These findings of a lower risk apply to women who were not using postmenopausal hormones.

The lowest risk of breast cancer (32% lower) was in women who lost at least 20 pounds (9kg) or more, kept it off, and were not taking post-menopausal hormones - when compared to women who stayed at a stable weight after 50. The researchers said that the results were particularly striking for obese and overweight women.

It is thought that these good results occur because weight loss in postmenopausal women results in lower levels of sex hormone concentrations, as well as C-reactive protein, Interleukin 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, insulin-like growth factor 1, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein.

In other words, even if you are over 50 and overweight - it is not too late to lose weight and lower your risk of breast cancer! View it as breast cancer prevention.

From Science Daily: Large study links sustained weight loss to reduced breast cancer risk 

A large new study finds that women who lost weight after age 50 and kept it off had a lower risk of breast cancer than women whose weight remained stable, helping answer a vexing question in cancer prevention. The reduction in risk increased with the amount of weight lost and was specific to women not using postmenopausal hormones. The study appears in JNCI.

In the United States, more than two in three adult women are overweight or obese. And while high body mass index (BMI) is an established risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer, there has not been adequate evidence to determine if that risk is reversible by losing excess weight.

To learn more, investigators from the American Cancer Society, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and others used the Pooling Project of Prospective Studies of Diet and Cancer (DCPP) to estimate the association of sustained weight loss in middle or later adulthood on subsequent breast cancer risk. Their analysis included more than 180,000 women aged 50 and older from ten prospective studies. The new analysis is the first with a large enough sample size to examine the important question of whether sustained weight loss can impact breast cancer risk with statistical precision. Weight was assessed three times over approximately 10 years: at study enrollment; after about five years; then again about four years later.

The results showed women with sustained weight loss had a lower risk of breast cancer than women whose weight remained stable, and the larger the amount of sustained weight loss, the lower was the risk of breast cancer. Women who lost 2 to 4.5 kg (about 4.4 to 10 lbs.) had a 13% lower risk (HR= 0.87, 95% CI: 0.77-0.99) than women with stable weight. Women who lost 4.5 to 9 kg (10- 20 lbs.) had a 16% lower risk (HR=0.84, 95% CI: 0.73-0.96). Women who lost 9 kg or more (20+ lbs.) had a 26% lower risk (HR=0.74, 95% CI: 0.58-0.94). In addition, women who lost 9 kg or more and gained some (but not all) of the weight back had a lower risk of breast cancer compared with those whose weight remained stable (HR=0.77, 95% CI: 0.62-0.97).

"Our results suggest that even a modest amount of sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50," said Lauren Teras, PhD, lead author of the study. 

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