Carrying excess weight has been linked to a number of health issues including breast cancer. Studies show women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight can also increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.

The most accurate indication of excess weight and obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI includes a measure of height and weight, so it is a better comparison of body weight than just a number on the scale. You can calculate your BMI here.

Increased Risk

Women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30% to 60% higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean. One reason for this is that fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body, and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Still, the link between extra weight and breast cancer is complicated and affected by other factors. For example, the location of the extra weight matters. Extra fat around your belly may increase risk more than the same amount of extra fat around your thighs or hips.

Women who are heavier also tend to have higher levels of insulin in their bodies compared to leaner women. Some studies have shown an increased risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women with high levels of insulin including women with type 2 diabetes.

Adult weight gain may also increase the risk of breast cancer before and after menopause. One large study found that women who gained about 20 pounds after age 18 had a 15% higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who gained little or no weight. Those who gained 55 pounds or more had a 45% higher risk. Additionally, findings from the same large study above showed that women who gained 20 pounds or more after menopause had an 18% higher risk of breast cancer compared to those who gained little or no weight after menopause.

How to Decrease Your Risk

Losing weight after menopause may help lower your risk of breast cancer. One large study found women who lost 4 to 11 pounds after menopause had more than a 20% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women whose weight did not change.

Losing weight can be difficult especially as you age. But, with deliberate changes to your diet along with regular exercise, weight loss is achievable. This October, decrease your risk of breast cancer by making an appointment with Blue Sky MD and start your weight loss journey today.