Weight loss, even moderate weight loss, can significantly reduce the levels of hormones that are associated with risk of breast cancer. That is the conclusion of a new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (USA), analyzed data from 493 postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese (BMI> 25), sedentary (less than 100 minutes of walking per week), and between 50 to 75 years old.
The study participants were divided into four groups, and each group performed a different level of physical activity over a period of one year: 1) Only aerobic physical activity (moderate to vigorous); 2) physical activity with healthy weight-loss diet; 3) diet only; and 4) no intervention.
After this period, the team measured blood levels of several types of sex hormones that are related to risk of breast cancer, among them different subtypes of estrogen and testosterone. The team found that women who followed both diet and physical activity had a reduction in levels of free estradiol of 26%. The decrease was 21.4% among women who only followed the diet.
The participants in these latter two groups lost on average 10% of their body weight during the study, and the researchers concluded that a 5% reduction in body weight is enough to have a beneficial impact on hormone levels, which can significantly decrease the chance of breast cancer. The results also indicated that the more weight they lost, the greater the cancer-reduction protective effect.
Anne McTiernan, coordinator of the study, states that the findings apply only to overweight or obese women who are not undergoing hormone replacement therapy. She believes that the amount of weight lost was the key to the changes in hormone levels, and that the greatest effect was obtained with a combination of diet and physical activity.
The investigators noted that this is the first study to show that weight loss through a healthy diet, including reduced-calorie, reduced fat, increased vegetables, and fruit fiber significantly reduces blood levels of estrogen in postmenopausal women. The study shows that it is never too late to make changes in lifestyle and thereby improve the quality of life and also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
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