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In The News

Dr. Patricia Limpert, St. Luke's Hospital

Weight loss and decreased breast cancer risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of U.S. adults are obese. Typically, when we hear the word "obesity," we think about the health consequences it can lead to such as diabetes, heart disease, joint and knee pain and even sleep problems.

We rarely think about how weight gain could lead to breast cancer. A new study could change our way of thinking.

In the study, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that moderate weight loss reduces hormone levels associated with increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

For a long time, experts have recognized a link between obesity and the increased risk of breast cancer in women after menopause. They believe a relationship between body fat and estrogen production contributes to this risk, and increased estrogen levels can influence the growth of tumors in the breast.

The new study found, however, that postmenopausal women who lose even a moderate amount of weight (5 percent or more) through diet and exercise can significantly lower their risk of estrogen-sensitive breast cancers by as much as 25 to 50 percent.

Losing weight takes a commitment and focus that can be challenging at times. We know stressors in our lives contribute to weight gain, so an effort to relieve unneeded worries or managing other issues can be a great start. Women can also start by setting realistic goals, following a low-calorie diet and getting the recommended 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week.

Dr. Patricia Limpert is a breast surgeon at the Breast Care Center at St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-205-6491 or visit the Breast Care Center page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 18, 2012.