According to a recent study, women who have gone through menopause and are overweight or obese are at higher risk of contracting breast cancer—and their tumors can be more aggressive.
Researchers at the University of Colorado investigated where the body stored excess calories consumed in the diet. In animals of a healthy weight, fat and sugar were dealt with predominantly by the liver; but in obese test subjects, fat and sugar were absorbed by the tumors themselves. In effect, they were feeding the cancer and helping it grow.
In obese animals that had tumors, there were increased levels of progesterone receptors, which allow tumors to grow more quickly. The research team then examined human breast cancers and found that same receptor delivered the same environment.
They found that overweight and obese women had a metabolic response to fat and sugar much like that of a diabetic’s. Taking that idea a step further, they tested metformin, a common antidiabetes drug, on cancerous cells. This resulted in a “dramatically decreased” mass of tumors and reduced expression of the progesterone receptor.
It’s never too late to lose weight, and the menopausal period is a good window for women to control their risk of breast cancer—by managing their weight. The researchers found that a combination of diet and exercise may be equally if not more beneficial than taking medications to deal with metabolic problems and weight gain.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Excess Weight Dangerous for Postmenopausal Cancer Sufferers
Giles, E., et al., “Obesity and Overfeeding Affecting Both Tumor and Systemic Metabolism Activates the Progesterone Receptor to Contribute to Postmenopausal Breast Cancer,” Cancer Res December 15, 2012, 72; 24: 6,490–6,501.