Healthy lifestyle during menopause may decrease breast cancer risk later on

December 19, 2012

Obese, postmenopausal women are at greater risk for developing breast cancer and their cancers tend to be more aggressive than those in lean counterparts. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the December issue of the journal Cancer Research shows how this risk might be prevented.

"By using nutrient tracers for fat and sugar, we tracked where the body stored excess calories. In lean models, excess fat and glucose were taken up by the liver, mammary and skeletal tissues. In obese models, excess fat and glucose were taken up by tumors, fueling their growth," says Erin Giles, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at the CU Cancer Center and the paper's lead author.

In short, if you are lean, excess calories go to healthy tissue. If you are obese, excess calories feed the tumor.

"This implies that the menopausal window may be an opportunity for women to control their through weight management," Giles says.

In this study, Giles worked with a team of scientists including postdoctoral fellows Elizabeth Wellberg and Sonali Jindal, as well as faculty members Steve Anderson, Pepper Schedin, Ann Thor and Paul Maclean. Their study also showed that tumors from obese animals had increased levels of the , and this receptor appears to give tumors a metabolic advantage for growth. To extend their findings to humans, they recruited gene analysis experts David Astling and Aik-Choon Tan who analyzed 585 human breast cancers and found that human tumors expressing the progesterone receptor had the same metabolic advantage.

"Basically, we saw an abnormal metabolic response to fat and sugar in the obese that, in many ways, mirrors the response to fat and sugar in ," Giles says. Noticing this similarity, the group tested the use of the common Type II , Metformin, in their model of postmenopausal .

"With treatment, was dramatically decreased in the obese, and tumors showed reduced expression of the progesterone receptor," Giles says.

Using a pre-clinical model, the investigators found that weight gain during menopause is particularly bad for those who are obese when entering menopause. Together, the results of this study suggest that the combination of and weight gain during menopause can impact breast cancer in two ways. First, tumors that arise in obese women appear to have a metabolic advantage, and second, the inability to store excess calories in healthy tissues may further fuel tumor growth.

"While drugs may be useful in controlling breast in obese, postmenopausal women, our results imply that a combination of diet and exercise may be equally if not more beneficial," Giles says.

The group's ongoing studies are testing whether interventions such as diet and exercise, during the period of menopausal weight gain, can improve tumor outcomes.

Explore further: Obesity and overeating during menopause together promote breast tumor growth and progression

Related Stories

Obesity and overeating during menopause together promote breast tumor growth and progression

December 7, 2012
Obese women might be able to eliminate their increased risk for postmenopausal breast cancer by taking measures during perimenopause to prevent weight gain and to therapeutically control the metabolic effects of their obesity, ...

Study supports link between obesity and higher incidence of cancer, poorer prognosis

October 15, 2012
Researchers may have discovered a new explanation as to why obese patients with cancer often have a poorer prognosis compared with those who are lean. The potential explanation is based on data reported in Cancer Research, ...

Study: Post-menopausal women with diabetes at greater risk of breast cancer

September 14, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Women with type II diabetes are nearly 30 per cent more likely to get breast cancer, according to results of a comprehensive review published in the British Journal of Cancer today (Friday).

Exercise, even mild physical activity, may reduce breast cancer risk

June 25, 2012
A new analysis done by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers has found that physical activity – either mild or intense and before or after menopause – may reduce breast cancer risk, but substantial ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.