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Obesity 'driving force' behind breast cancer

20th July 2011

New research has suggested that obesity is the biggest driving force behind the most common form of breast cancer in older women.

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Cancer Research UK, which funded the Oxford University study, said it comes ahead of alcohol and then cigarettes.

A key reason for placing obesity at the top of the list is because it is a lifestyle factor that many women have a degree of control over.

Evidence says that while one in eight women in the UK develops breast cancer in their lifetime, the majority of the growth of such tumours is fuelled by hormones.

The level of these “sex” hormones is raised by too much stored fat in the body, with weight having the greatest bearing on these levels.

Studies show that post-menopausal women with high levels of oestrogen and testosterone have between two and three times the risk of breast cancer than women with the lowest levels.

The latest findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK said: “This is an important study as it helps to show how alcohol and weight can influence hormone levels. Understanding their role in breast cancer is vital and this analysis sheds light on how they could affect breast cancer risk.

“We know that the risk of the disease can be affected by family history and getting older, but there are also things women can do help reduce the risk of the disease. Maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing alcohol consumption are key to reducing breast cancer risk.”

 

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