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Obesity might play part in increasing breast cancer rates among Hispanics

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They found the following:

    - Obese Hispanic women showed a nearly two-fold risk of breast cancer, and the risk was elevated regardless of whether they had gone through menopause. Obese non-Hispanic white women only showed increased risk after menopause.

    - Breast cancer risk more than doubled for Hispanic women who showed a substantial gain (more than 30 pounds) between their weight at age 18 and current weight. Among non-Hispanic white women who gained substantial weight compared to weight at age 18, risk only increased for those who had gone through menopause.

    - Breast cancers associated with weight gain among Hispanic women and postmenopausal non-Hispanic white women primarily were estrogen- and progesterone-receptor positive (ER+/PR+).

    - Breast cancer risk increased among women who never used estrogen (in hormone replacement therapy) and who gained the most weight.

People are considered obese if they have a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more. A 5-foot-5-inch woman who weighs about 180 pounds has a BMI of 30.

Although researchers do not know exactly how weight gain affects cancer risk, the association of ER+/PR+ tumors with women who gained weight provides further evidence that hormones are a key, Gilliland notes.

"Aside from estrogen, other hormones like insulin and IGF-1 [an insulin growth factor] may play a role in breast cancer," Gilliland said. Because Hispanics appear to be susceptible to obesity and have a high prevalence of insulin resistance-leading to elevated risk for type-2 diabetes-the effect of weight gain on breast cancer risk may be particularly important in this ethnic group.

Obesity in U.S. Hispanic women increased 80 percent from 1991 to 1998, and appears to keep rising. About a quarter of Hispanic women are obese.

"Reducing weight gain during adulthood may be a good target for public health interventions to try to prevent breast cancer,
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Contact: Jon Weiner
jonweine@usc.edu
323-442-2830
University of Southern California
9-Aug-2002


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