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Another excellent reason to lose weight if you are overweight or obese: losing weight (through diet or through combined diet and exercise) significantly lowers levels of proteins in the blood that help cancerous tumors grow. In other words, reducing weight could turn out to be a cancer prevention method in overweight and obese persons. Exercise alone did not lower the levels of these cancer-associated proteins.

The study enrolled 439 overweight or obese women (aged 50 to 75 years old) from the Seattle area who were randomly placed into one of four groups for 12 months: exercise only, diet only, exercise plus diet, or no change to health habits. Researchers measured three proteins in blood samples - VEGF, PAI-1 and PEDF – that flow through the body and help in the formation of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. Angiogenesis can occur during such processes as wound healing, but it also occurs during the growth of tumors. Since the three measured proteins are involved in nurturing the growth and survival of tumor cells, this is a great reason to lose weight - to lower their levels in the blood. From Science Daily:

Losing weight lowered levels of proteins associated with tumor growth

Overweight or obese women who lost weight through diet or a combination of diet and exercise also significantly lowered levels of proteins in the blood that help certain tumors grow, according to a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center study published July 14 in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The study: Measured three proteins that are known to enhance tumor-related angiogenesis -- the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors and enable them to grow. Was intended to see how cancer-promoting proteins changed when overweight, sedentary, postmenopausal women lost weight through diet or diet and exercise over the course of a year. Enrolled 439 healthy women (they did not have cancer), placing each participant in one of four study arms: 1) Calorie- and fat-restricted diet. 2) Aerobic exercise five days a week. 3) Combined diet and exercise. 4) Control (no intervention).

Found that women in the diet arm and the diet and exercise arm lost more weight and had significantly lower levels of angiogenesis-related proteins, compared with women in the exercise-only arm and the control arm.

This study shows that weight loss may be a safe and effective way to improve the "angiogenic profile" of healthy individuals, meaning they would have lower blood levels of cancer-promoting proteins. Although the researchers cannot say for certain that this would impact the growth of tumors, they believe there could be an association between reduced protein levels and a less favorable environment for tumor growth.