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A postmenopausal weight gain of 10 pounds can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer by up to 20 percent, according to Dr. Frederick Shedd of Columbus-based Southern Indiana Surgery.
The physician said that women, especially those who are postmenopausal, should do their best to prevent weight gain and/or lose weight to reduce their risk for breast cancer.
Postmenopausal women with a body mass index above 30 have a 25 to 30 percent greater chance of getting breast cancer than women whose weights fall within normal BMI ranges, Shedd said.
A woman who is 5-foot-7 and weighs
191.5 pounds has a BMI reading of 30, for example.
Dr. David J. Lee, also of Southern Indiana Surgery, said that for certain types of cancer — breast, colon, prostate — obesity presents as much of a risk factor as smoking.
“By losing the weight, you can decrease the risk of developing cancer,” Lee said.
Obesity also complicates diagnosing breast cancer, said Deana Tuell, a nurse navigator at the Breast Health Center of Columbus Regional Health. Tumors in obese women generally are found at a later stage than in normal-weight women, she said.
Obese women sometimes do not do self-exams as often, and because their breasts tend to be larger, they have more trouble finding knots, she said.
Beyond the higher risk factors, Tuell said, women who are in better health at diagnosis also have a better chance of beating the cancer.
Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery challenge the body physically and psychologically, and patients with a good fitness level have a better chance to overcome those challenges, Tuell said.
She also advised that weight loss, much like quitting smoking, can be achieved much more easily before any cancer diagnosis. A diagnosis puts enormous stress on patients, and people deal with stress often by smoking or eating, exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. So obtaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking reduces the chance of a cancer diagnosis; and it increases the chance for a successful outcome in cases of a cancer diagnosis.
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