Both cancer and obesity are on the rise around the world and medical scientists have long known that there may be a link between the two. Studies suggest that this may be the case particularly for breast cancer, and that weight loss for obese individuals at risk can be key to preventing the disease from occurring or from preventing its return in those already diagnosed.
Breast cancer is the number one type of cancer linked to obesity and excess body fat, with an estimated 33,000 cases of the disease attributed to obesity each year. This is generally believed to be due to the fact that fat cells contain the hormone estrogen, and estrogen fuels the growth of the cancer.
A New Zealand medical student has identified a a new possible link between fat cells and breast cancer cells, wherein a particular protein excreted by fat cells appears to allow the “cancer cells to migrate and and grow faster.” This discovery potentially indicates that the more fatty tissue a woman has, the more invasive and rapidly spreading her breast cancer could become. Rather than focusing on the impact of fat cells on the body of a cancer patient as a whole, this study focuses on the localized area surrounding the cancer. While the work is ongoing, it is hoped that this discovery may lead the way toward better treatment outcomes for overweight and obese breast cancer patients.
Another study by South Dakota doctor Amy Krie looked at 24 post-menopausal women who had survived breast cancer and were placed on an Ideal protein diet which restricted carbohydrates and allowed them to eat between 800 and 1200 calories each day. The participants also met with a personal coach weekly and gave blood every other week. All of the women except one lost a significant amount of weight, even in the face of undergoing endocrine therapy which is normally associated with weight gain. The special diet they were on allowed the particpants to burn fat as a primary source of nutrition for their bodies.
Unfortunately, the battle against excess weight can be made more difficult for breast cancer patients as both traditional cancer treatments and anti-estrogen therapy often lead to weight gain. Krie’s recently presented study provides hope that it is possible and provides insight into how it can be done as well.
With more than a third of Americans obese today, the risks of breast cancer and certain other types of cancers associated with obesity, including esophageal, kidney, pancreatic and liver cancers, is only rising. Approximately one in eight women, or about 12.1 percent of the female population, in the United States can expect to be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Although researchers do not fully understand the link between obesity and cancer yet, they advise that the best way to eliminate obesity as a factor in the development of cancer is to attack it head on by consuming a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
By Michele Wessel