We know it is natural for women to put on weight at menopause. It is the body’s way of compensating for the declining levels of oestrogen so it switches production into the fat cells and unfortunately it favours the hips, abdomen and thighs – just where you don’t want it.
Age matters in breast cancer
It is mistakenly thought too that it is younger women who are most at risk of breast cancer, but this is just not the case. If you have been avoiding mammograms because you think you are too old, you might want to reconsider.
A report made at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research has shown that women 75 and older who had an interval of 2 to 5 years between their last mammogram and a breast cancer diagnosis had an 87% increased risk of death from breast cancer compared with those who had mammograms at 6 months to 1 year before diagnosis. Matters were even worse for women who let more than 5 years pass without a mammogram or who had never had the imaging procedure: their risk of death was more than tripled compared with women who received regular mammograms.
Where’s your waist?
If you no longer curve in all the right places but bulge in too many, you need to keep any eye on your waist measurement because a larger waist circumference is associated with higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.
A significant body of research has linked abdominal obesity to a number of conditions, including heart disease, type II diabetes, and breast and other cancers. Those studies have led to the theory that having an “apple shaped” body, with weight concentrated in the chest and torso, is riskier than having a “pear-shaped” body, with fat concentrated in the hips, thighs and buttocks.
Researchers have found a statistically significant positive association between waist circumference and postmenopausal breast cancer risk and if you have a high BMI, regardless if you are pear or apple shaped, you are at higher risk of breast cancer. They reported that being overweight, particularly when the weight gain happened during adulthood, is one of the important modifiable risk factors for breast cancer in post-menopausal women. This new data indicates it’s not what shape you are, it’s what kind of shape you are in that probably ought to be your focus.
What can you do?
It is interesting that the researchers accept that it is weight gained on the abdomen, hips and thighs that is the risk factor yet they do not make the link to oestrogen dominance. It is oestrogen that is the reason for this additional fat and if you are also using artificial hormones such as HRT you will be increasing your oestrogen load.
Progesterone in particular is known to be protective of breast cancer so women with a particular vulnerability would benefit from supplementing and getting their hormones back in balance. Although it is excess oestrogen that is the primary risk factor for many types of cancer, there are simple preventive measures you can take to help minimise the risk:
- check for symptoms of oestrogen dominance
- ensure good progesterone levels to counteract it
- stick to a a good body weight through a sensible diet
- exercise regularly at something you enjoy