Abdominal fat a key cancer driver for postmenopausal women

September 10, 2017, European Society for Medical Oncology

Body fat distribution in the trunk is more important than body weight when it comes to cancer risk in postmenopausal women, according to a study presented at the ESMO 2017 Congress in Madrid.

The findings put a new spin on weight management priorities for women in this this age-group, who are prone to abdominal weight gain, said study investigator Line Mærsk Staunstrup, MSc, a PhD student with Nordic Bioscience and ProScion, in Herlev, Denmark.

"When assessing , body mass index (BMI) and fat percentage may not be adequate measures as they fail to assess the distribution of ," she explained. "Avoiding central obesity may confer the best protection."

The findings come from the Prospective Epidemiologic Risk Factor study, an observational, prospective cohort study designed to get a better understanding of age-related diseases in Danish .

It included 5,855 women (mean age 71 years) who underwent baseline dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans to assess body fat and body fat composition and have been followed for 12 years.

Using information from national registries, the study recorded 811 solid cancers in the women and showed that the ratio of abdominal fat to peripheral fat was a significant independent predictor of cancer diagnosis up to 12 years after baseline (hazard ratio [HR] 1.30; 95%, CI: 1.11 to 1.52; p < 0.001). Neither BMI nor fat percentage showed significance.

Specifially, there were 293 breast and ovarian cancers, 345 lung and gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, and 173 other cancers. Looking in detail at specific cancers and risk factors the investigators determined that only lung and GI cancers were associated with high abdominal to peripheral fat ratios (HR: 1.68; 95%, CI: 1.12 to 2.53; p < 0.05 and HR: 1.34; 95%, CI: 1 to 1.8; p < 0.05, respectively).

Additional cancer risk factors were older age, receipt of hormone replacement therapy and smoking, but after controlling for these , fat ratio remained an independent risk factor.

"The average elderly women can very much use this information, as it is known that the menopause transition initiates a shift in body fat towards the central trunk area. Therefore elderly women should be especially aware of their lifestyle when they approach the pre-menopause age," said Mærsk Staunstrup. "Clinicians can additionally use the information for a preventive conversation with who are in higher risk of cancer. While clinicians have access to whole body DXA scanners at most hospitals, portable DXA scanners have become available on the commercial market and this may allow regional bone and fat scanning, however it may not be the most reliable for measuring central obesity," she concluded.

Commenting on the study, Andrea De Censi, MD from Galliera Hospital, in Genova, Italy said the study provides important confirmation of the role of obesity and particularly insulin resistance in the etiology of several cancers.

"While obesity has previously been linked to cancer risk, the link to lung cancer is new and intriguing," he commented.

"Increases in insulin, resulting from over-consumption of simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, wheat, rice and corn, result in fat accumulation that is specifically visceral and abdominal," De Censi explained. Insulin also has detrimental effects on hormone production, and adipose cells in fat tissue increase chonic inflammation throughout the , another risk factor for several cancers.

"These data open the door for clinicans to intiate a number of interventions in obese patients. In addition to with diet and exercise, there may be a potential role for a diabetes drug, such as metformin, which can lower insulin effects and contribute to cancer prevention."

Explore further: Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

More information: Abstract 1408P_PR 'A study of body fat composition, derived from DXA-scans, in association with cancer incidence in postmenopausal women' will be presented by Ms. Staunstrup during Poster Display Session on Sunday, 10 September 2017

Related Stories

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Where body fat is carried can predict cancer risk

May 23, 2017
Scientists have found that carrying fat around your middle could be as good an indicator of cancer risk as body mass index (BMI), according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

Duration of adulthood overweight and obesity linked to cancer risk in US women

August 16, 2016
The duration of overweight and obesity in women's adult lives is associated with cancer risk, according to a longitudinal study published in PLOS Medicine. The study, led by Melina Arnold of the International Agency for Research ...

Body fat and waist size linked to increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women

June 15, 2017
The results of a population study presented today at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) 2017 obesity in women, as defined by body mass index (BMI), abdominal obesity and a higher body fat percentage is associated ...

Metformin may reduce cancer mortality risk

April 18, 2016
(HealthDay)—Metformin may reduce the risk of dying from some cancers for postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the April 15 issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

Recommended for you

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

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.