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Obesity might play part in increasing breast cancer rates among Hispanics

LOS ANGELES, August 9, 2002-Hispanic women have been known to run a lower risk of developing breast cancer than most other women, but their breast cancer rates are climbing-and increasing obesity is one factor that might be to blame.

The weight that Hispanic women gain during adulthood and their body fat may put them at greater risk for breast cancer both before and after menopause, according to researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the University of New Mexico and Johns Hopkins University. The team's study appears in the August issue of Annals of Epidemiology.

Although many researchers have looked at the effect of weight on breast cancer risk, this study is among the few to examine that relationship among Hispanic women. "Examining the relationships of adult weight, adult weight gain, and obesity with breast cancer occurrence is of interest due to the high and rising prevalence of obesity in the U.S. Hispanic population," said Mad Wenten, doctoral student at the Keck School and the study's lead author.

Hispanic women have rapidly been joining the ranks of the overweight; at the same time, breast cancer cases among such women are on the upswing.

"We know that breast cancer incidence and mortality have been rising in Hispanic women, but no one knows why," said Frank D. Gilliland, M.D., Keck School associate professor of preventive medicine and study principal investigator. "The thought was that perhaps these women were starting to have fewer children, and having them later in life, which may increase risk.

"But we looked at all the major reproductive factors, and they explained only 5 percent of the increase in risk. Something else must be going on."

Researchers studied more than 1,500 Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women with breast cancer in New Mexico in the early 1990s, asking about characteristics such as their current weight, their weight at age 18, menopausal status and use of hormone replaceme
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Contact: Jon Weiner
jonweine@usc.edu
323-442-2830
University of Southern California
9-Aug-2002


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