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Saturday 26th May 2018

Weight loss helps breast cancer

10th March 2008

A long-term study into breast cancer has found that women whose bodies make less oestrogen after the initial disease and treatment have less chance of a recurrence.


The study measured the female hormone oestrogen in women soon after initial treatment and found that levels of the hormone were twice as high in women who had a recurrence.

Study investigator Cheryl Rock, a professor in the cancer prevention program at the University of California, San Diego, said the extra oestrogen came from fat deposits in the women's bodies.

Nearly all the women studied had already gone through menopause and were taking a drug to block the production of oestrogen - tamoxifen.

According to Rock, fat tissue is the main place in the body, aside from the ovaries, where the hormone is manufactured.

So for overweight and obese women, weight loss would be an important step in preventing a recurrence of breast cancer.

What's more, the elevated insulin levels associated with obestity suppress the production of globulin, which removes free oestrogen from the circulation.

The good news is that breast cancer survivors can significantly cut their risk of a recurrence through exercise and weight-loss programmes.

Anti-oestrogen drugs alone will not solve the problem, according to Rock, but exercise and weight loss would also promote cardiovascular health, an additional benefit.

Experts agreed with Rock's assessment, saying that exercise and weight loss were an effective therapy for breast cancer patients.

It also puts patients in charge of their own life expectancy, not just improving their risk of a cancer recurrence, but also improving their overall health, according to Charles Cox, surgical oncologist in the breast program at Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, looked at oestrogen levels in 153 breast cancer patients whose cancer returned, and in 153 women whose cancer did not come back during the seven years of the study.


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