As National Breast Cancer Awareness month approaches, a new study is released linking breast cancer risk to a woman’s skirt size. The study stressed the importance of women watching their skirt sizes as a means of combatting the possibility of getting cancer. It noted that women are better able to keep track of skirt size than their body mass index (BMI).
The research study suggests that if a woman goes up several skirt sizes, this could be a warning sign of increased cancer risk. The midriff region is a particularly accurate marker of cancer risk.
This is due to the boosted levels of estrogen that extra fat in this region represents. Body fat in this area is more metabolically active than elsewhere in the body. Breast cancer cells use estrogen for fuel.
The study specifies that each decade that a woman’s skirt size goes up after her mid-20s is linked to a 33% increased risk of breast cancer after menopause. If skirt size increases two sizes per decade, this is associated with a 77% increased risk.
This was found to be true regardless of a woman’s overall weight. That is because obesity is a known risk factor for cancer. Because of the connection between cancer risk and the midriff, the study recommends a woman notice her skirt size as a way of tracking weight gain.
The study, published on September 24th in BMJ Open, was conducted by Prof. Usha Menon of the Department of Women’s Cancer at University College London, England. It tracked over 90,000 women for three- to four-year periods between 2005 and 2010. They all lived in England and were in their 50s and 60s and had gone through menopause.
The women participated in the Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening in England. Before the study, none of the women had known breast cancer.
The women provided information about family genetics, BMI, and reproductive history, including use of contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). All of these influence breast cancer.
The women were also asked about their skirt sizes current and prior. Over one thousand, or 1.2 percent of the women in the study, developed breast cancer.
Skirt size increase emerged as the strongest predictor of breast cancer risk. Seventy-five percent of the women had had increases in skirt size between their mid-20s and the time of the study.
As this was an observational research, it is not a proof of the increased risk due to increased waistline. Prof. Menon acknowledged that more research is needed to draw cause-and-effect links.
Colleagues commented on the research. Some said that remembering one’s skirt size is an easy method for noting weight gain.
Simon Vincent of Breakthrough Breast Cancer acknowledged that combatting obesity is known to help prevent cancer. He stated that maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle are important in this regard. He cited that 40 percent of breast cancers could be prevented in this way.
Another researcher, Tom Stansfield of Cancer Research UK stated that skirt size could be an unreliable marker of weight gain, as over the decades, size standards change. For example, a size 12 in the 1970s might be equivalent to a size 8 currently. Moreover, a measure that relies on a woman knowing her size may be flawed in the act of remembering.
Dr. Leslie Bernstein, director of cancer etiology at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, agreed with the logic of the findings, however. She said that skirt size can be linked to breast cancer risk as a surrogate marker for measuring weight gain. Even though the study does not prove cause and effect, many women across the world will now notice their skirt sizes and know of the connection between obesity and breast cancer risk.
By Fern Remedi-Brown