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Breast Cancer: One More Reason To Watch Your Weight


A study out of Britain offers a new way to measure chances of developing breast cancer: skirt size.

Results published in BMJ Open suggest an increase of one skirt size every 10 years between age 25 and when you’re over 60 is associated with an increase of breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Dr. Aeisha Rivers is Director of Multidisciplinary and Breast Evaluation Clinics at Parkland Hospital System and an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 

In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Rivers explains the ties between weight and breast cancer.

From Dr. Rivers’ interview…

Weight gain and breast cancer? “We’ve known that increased weight is associated with increased hormone production. Hormone production is what is linked to the increased breast cancer risk.”

What’s considered overweight in relations to breast cancer: “What we want patients to understand is that those weight changes over time will lead to greater breast cancer risk. I wouldn’t worry about a couple of pounds you put on over the holidays. But if you notice over a ten, 20 year period, you’re up about 30, 40 pounds, maybe we need to think about that.”

Weight gain before menopause decreases risk of breast cancer and increases it for post-menopausal women? After menopause, you’re going to be at higher risk than someone who is pre-menopausal, so that risk is compounded by those extra pounds and that extra estrogen production.

Why the higher risk after menopause overall? Cancer is a disease of age. And the older we get, the higher our risk in general.

For more information:

The Study in BMJ Open 

Breast Suggestions for losing weight 

Overweight, Obesity and Breast Cancer 

Obesity and Cancer Risk 

Increasing Skirt Sizes May Hike Your Breast Cancer Risk: Study 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.