Obesity Boosts Aggressive Breast Cancer Risk

Women have been told for years that exercise reduces their risk for developing breast cancers fed by estrogen.

Now, there’s more reason to head to the gym.

Scientists are warning women that obesity raises their risk of triple-negative breast cancers, an aggressive form that doesn’t use estrogen to grow.

Women who qualify as obese by the Body Mass Index face a 35 percent higher risk for triple-negative breast cancers and a 39 percent higher risk of breast cancers that are driven by estrogen, according to a study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Earlier studies have shown that women increase their risk of breast cancer when they gain weight because their body fat stores estrogen. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for American women, according to federal health statistics.

So can women do to combat these statistics?

Health officials recommend women live a healthy lifestyle to reduce their risk. This includes limited alcohol use, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Women who breastfeed their children for several months can also reduce their risk for breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Finding breast cancer early increases a woman’s chance of survival. The ACS recommends the following guidelines for women who have no symptoms:

  • Screening Mammogram: For women ages 40 and older annually. Only 2 to 4 of every 1,000 mammograms leads to a cancer diagnosis.
  • Clinical Breast Exam: Every three years for women in their 20s and 30s. Annually for women beginning at age 40.
  • Breast Self Exam: An option for women beginning in their 20s. Any changes in how the breast looks or feels should be reported immediately.

Sources: The American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute

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