Slim isn’t enough: Post-menopausal women need to be fit too in order to avoid breast cancer risk

Post-menopausal women with a normal body mass index (BMI), but who have high amounts of body fat are more prone to breast cancer, a study presented to the American Association for Cancer Research found. This means that for post-menopausal women, it is not enough to be slim but to be fit as well in order to prevent breast cancer.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers in the U.S. who looked at the relationship between body fat levels and breast cancer risk. In conducting the study, the used the data gathered by the observational study called the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The study was based on a total of 3,460 post-menopausal women who were between 50 and 79 years old. The participants had a normal body mass index, a baseline dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measurements, and no record of breast cancer.

The research team did a follow-up observation on the participants after a median of 16 years, in which they found that 182 of the participants developed invasive breast cancer, and 146 of these cases were ER-positive. Moreover, they observed that women with higher body fat mass were about two times more prone to ER-positive breast cancer in comparison to those with lower body fat levels. In addition, they discovered that regardless of having a normal BMI, there was an increase of 35 percent in the risk of ER-positive breast cancer for every five kilograms (kg) increase in whole body fat.

Meanwhile, women with elevated amounts of body fat had lower physical activity levels, which indicates that physical activity may be essential even for those who are not obese or overweight.

“These findings will probably be surprising to many doctors and patients alike, as BMI is the current standard method to assess the risks for diseases related to body weight,” said Andrew Dannenberg, MD, associate director of Cancer Prevention at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center of Weill Cornell Medicine.

Ways to lose body fat naturally

Losing body fat will help lower the risk of cancers. In order to do this, here are some tips to follow:

  1. Be aware of your calorie intake – By eating less and moving more, the body will use some of the fat stored to exercise and to fuel daily activities. Meanwhile, calorie reduction can lead to lean muscle mass reduction. For women, the daily recommended calorie intake is a minimum of 1,200 calories, while men should have at least 1,800 calorie intake daily.
  2. Eat protein – One way to lose body fat is to eat foods rich in lean proteins because they make you feel full and they need more calories to digest than fats or carbohydrates. Eating enough protein also helps maintain and build lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolism. After your workout, you can eat protein-rich snacks, such as a smoothie made with berries, almond milk, and whey protein, half a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, or two hard boiled eggs with a banana.
  3. Eliminate poor-quality calories – Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to replace calories from processed foods.
  4. Do cardio exercises – One of the essential ways of losing body fat is cardiovascular activity, such as running, cycling, hiking, swimming, and dancing, as it helps burn calories.

Find more news stories and studies on the factors that affect cancer risk at

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