Smoking and weight increase breast cancer odds

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Woman smoking
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New research shows that exercising, and avoiding weight gains can cut breast cancer risk as much as sixty – eight percent. According to a new study that excluded women who possess a genetic tendency for breast cancer, smoking and obesity still significantly increase the odds that a woman will develop the disease.

The findings, published in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, again show that being overweight increases susceptibility to breast cancer. The new study is the first to examine breast cancer risk among women who do not possess the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene that increases cancer risk.

Researchers from the Université de Montréal's Department of Nutrition looked at breast cancer, nutrition, weight, and lifestyle. They found that gaining weight after age 20 increased the risk, and that smoking compounds the chances of breast cancer for women.

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A 34 pound weight gain increased breast cancer risk as much as sixty eight percent in younger women. The risk increases with age and in proportion to increased weight. After age 40, a 12 pound weight gain doubles the risk. Women over age 50 at maximum weight have triple the chances of developing the disease.

Smoking adds to the risk. One pack a day for nine years boosts breast cancer risk by 59 percent. After menopause, the risk decreases some, but still remained 50 percent among women who smoke.

According to the authors, "Cancer is a complex disease and can be latent for several years. Therefore, it is important to work on the factors we can control and to lead a healthy lifestyle, which means watching one's weight, avoid smoking and doing regular exercise."

Moderate exercise was found to reduce breast cancer risk by fifty-two percent among pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women. Intense physical exercise did not show the same benefits, likely due to the difficulty in exercising intensively and consistently. The study shows that simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Journal of Cancer Epidemiology

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