Breast cancer is the second most common cancer to strike women.
(Skin cancer is the most common.) In the United States alone
in the year 2000, an estimated 180,000 new cases of breast
cancer will be diagnosed, and nearly 40,000 women will die
from the disease.
Age, personal history, family history, early menstruation
(before age 12), and late pregnancy (after age 30-35) are
established risk factors for breast cancer. Increasing evidence
suggests that physical characteristics such as height and
weight may also play a role. A study published in the American
Journal of Epidemiology examined the relationship between
height, weight and breast cancer risk as part of the Pooling
Project of Diet and Cancer, with particular focus on the potential
influence of menopausal status. Seven previous studies were
analyzed from data on more than 337,000 women with 4,385 incident
cases of invasive breast cancer.
Increasing height was associated with increased risk of breast
cancer in postmenopausal women. High weight and body-mass
index (BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height) were
associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in premenopausal
women but with an increased risk in postmenopausal women.
The authors emphasize that weight is a modifiable risk factor
that represents an “important opportunity for prevention of
postmenopausal breast cancer.”
Schedule regular screenings for breast cancer, and talk to
your doctor about what you can do to minimize your risk. As
these study results suggest, adopting a sensible diet and
exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight may be an
important step in the prevention of this horrific disease.
Van den Brandt Pa, Speigelman D, Yaun S-S, et al. Pooled
analysis of prospective cohort studies on height, weight,
and breast cancer risk. American Journal of Epidemiology
2000: Vol. 152, pp514-27.
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