Does Obesity Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer in Women?

Obesity and being overweight comes with a lot of health risks. One of the conditions associated with excessive weight, especially among women, is breast cancer. Even though there is not enough data on what causes the condition, obesity is said to increase the risk of developing breast cancer among women.

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What is the link between being excessively overweight and developing breast cancer? Fat cells create estrogen; having more fat tissues increases the estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen then gives way for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to develop and grow. Furthermore, overweight or obese women tend to have higher insulin levels. High insulin levels are also associated with the development of some types of cancer, including breast cancer.

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With that said, the relationship between weight and breast cancer is quite complicated. Studies show that the risk of developing the condition is greater among women who gained weight during their adulthood compared to those who have been overweight since childhood. That’s why obese postmenopausal women have a 20% to 40% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those with a normal bmi.

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Furthermore, the placement of excessive fat can also affect the chances of developing cancer. For instance, extra fat around the belly makes you more susceptible to the condition compared to the same amount of extra fat around your thighs or hips.

So, yes, obesity can increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

Why Obesity & Breast Cancer is the worst combination?

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If you do not pay attention to your weight, then you are not doing yourself any favour. Continuing to gain and maintain excessive weight makes you more at risk of developing cancer. Moreover, being diagnosed with breast cancer while being obese cause a multitude of health problems.

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Surgeries like mastectomy require patients to undergo general anaesthesia. Friction between the anaesthesia and your excess weight can lead to complications. Overweight or obese people are more likely to have sleep apnea, a condition where breathing temporarily stops while sleeping. In turn, sleep apnea causes a risk of low oxygenation under general anaesthesia. It can also cause cardiovascular problems. Obese individuals have a high risk of cardiac rhythm abnormalities during surgery due to the pressure caused by their weight to their heart.

Even in instances where overweight or obese women survive cancer through mastectomy, they are still not risk-free. Obesity is associated with a 35% to 40% increased risk of breast cancer recurrence, again due to overproduction of estrogen by extra fat cells. If not cancer recurrence, developing other conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes are also very likely.

How can you start losing weight today?

If you want to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, or any other disease, losing weight is needed. However, it is not as simple as it sounds. Diet and exercise are integral parts of weight loss, but for some, it is not enough, especially obese women whose bodies are already used to their weight. Luckily, there are alternative solutions like gastric balloons that can aid your weight loss. One of the gastric balloons you can opt for includes the Allurion Balloon.

Allurion is the first and only swallowable weight loss balloon. Unlike other gastric balloons, it requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia, making the procedure non-invasive.

The inflated balloon comes in the form of a capsule, allowing you to ingest it with a glass of water. An X-ray is done to make sure the inflated balloon is placed properly in the stomach. The outer capsule dissolves once inside the stomach. The balloon is then filled with 550ml of water, or until it’s the size of a grapefruit. You’ll undergo a second X-ray to see if it’s properly filled. The whole process only takes 20 minutes.

The Allurion Balloon lasts inside the stomach for 16 weeks. The balloon takes up space in the stomach that food normally would. It makes you feel full despite eating smaller portions of food. It also slows down your digestion, making you feel full for longer and minimizing your cravings. Within 12 weeks, you can lose an average of 10-15% of your body weight. After that period, a time-activated release valve opens and allows the balloon to deflate and the remnants of the balloon are naturally excreted through your bowel movement.

The balloon is there to aid your weight loss. However, the results still vary, depending on the lifestyle changes you pursue before and after the balloon’s placement. Please seek advice from a qualified doctor to assess eligibility for this program.

How do you reduce the risk of breast cancer?

As mentioned, so far, there are no studies that point to what specifically causes breast cancer. However, there are considered risk factors that increase the possibility of developing the condition. Some of these factors are controllable, while some are uncontrollable but you can still take steps to combat them. Asides from weight loss, here are ways that you can reduce these risk factors of breast cancer:

Avoid or Limit Alcohol Consumption

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Overconsumption of alcohol can increase estrogen levels linked to hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who don’t drink at all.

Limit yourself to one drink a day. It can be either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor). However, even low alcohol consumption still creates a risk of developing breast cancer. It is best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

Stop Smoking

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It is said that smoking for more than 10 years can increase the possibility of breast cancer by 21%. Younger, premenopausal women are specific targets of the said risk factor. Aside from breast cancer, smoking can lead to other health complications including heart diseases, stroke, and 15 other types of cancer. Moreover, second-hand smoke exposure also poses a risk of breast cancer, especially to postmenopausal women.

Take Preventive Measures

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About 5% to 10% of breast cancers can be hereditary, especially if a first-degree female relative has been diagnosed with the condition. Furthermore, women with a history of breast cancer have a three to four times higher risk of redeveloping the disease.

That’s why many women opt to undergo preventive surgeries like mastectomy, or breast removal surgery. A prophylactic mastectomy involves removing one or both breasts to reduce the possibility of developing breast cancer. Preventive mastectomy can lower cancer risk by 90% or more.

How do you keep yourself “safe” from breast cancer?

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Again, breast cancer is quite unpredictable. So, it is hard to be considered completely “safe” from developing the condition. But then again, avoiding the risk factors and following the tips mentioned above may reduce the chances of anything happening. That’s also a reason why close and continuous observation is key.

Experts highly suggest breast self-examination (BSE). BSE is a screening method where you observe and feel your breast, looking for any possible signs of breast cancer, primarily breast lumps. With that said, detecting lumps in the breast doesn’t automatically equate to cancer diagnosis. During self-examination, you can also check for other signs such as dimpling of the skin, change in texture or temperature of the breast, itching or burning sensation, and unusual discharge in the nipple that may be clear or another colour, or bloody. Upon discovering any of these, consult a doctor immediately. Doctors recommend self-examination be done once a month.

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BSE can detect early indicators of breast cancer on your own. Still, regular doctor visits every six to 12 months for breast exams and ongoing risk assessment aids are suggested, regardless if you notice any cancer signs or not. Also, undergo mammograms, breast MRI, and other screenings as soon as you can.

Breast cancer chooses no one. However, as long as you keep yourself healthy, you can go along with your life free of worries. A part of that is keeping your weight in check. It does not only decrease your risk of breast cancer but also other health complications. As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.”