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D.iet & H.ealth : B.ody W.eight Last Updated: Nov 28th, 2006 - 17:31:29

Overweight may lower breast cancer risk in young women?
Nov 27, 2006, 23:38

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By Jimmy Downs

A new study conducted by Harvard Medical School suggests that being overweight may lower the breast cancer risk.

That is a suggestion only. The real finding, according to Reuters, is that those who were obese or overweight were found at a lower risk of breast cancer. But the results per se do not say that being overweight is a cause for the reduced risk of breast cancer.

For the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers went through medical data from 113,130 premenopausal nurses who were tracked from 1989 to 2003. During this period, 1,398 cases of invasive breast cancer were recorded among the subjects.

Researchers found that those who were obese by definition, that is, with a body mass index of 30 or above, were 19 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those with a normal body weight or with a body mass index 20 to 22.4.

Those who were overweight or obese, but at age 18, were 43 percent less likely to be diagnosed with premenopausal breast cancer compared to others of normal weight at the same age.

The researchers were puzzled by the finding as it contradicts early research which has found that excessive weight actually is associated with higher risk of breast cancer.

Researchers suggested, according to Reuters, that the positive effect of being overweight was found among premenopausal women while the negative effect was found among postmenopausal women, indicating that there is not much contradiction.

In addition, they suggested that the positive effect may be due to the fact that the large sized women ovulate less often than those with normal body weight who have more exposure to hormones in the body, resulting in a higher risk of breast cancer.

Reuters cited Karin Michels, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and lead researcher in the study, as speculating that obese women are less likely to be screened for breast cancer and breast cancer is hard to be found in the obese women even when they are screened.

Researchers warned that the results should not be interpreted such that being obese reduces the risk of breast cancer, Reuters reported.

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