Lower breast cancer risk found among women who lost weight after 50

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Women who lost weight after age 50 manifested a lower risk of breast cancer compared to women whose weight remained the same, according to a study.

Based on the study “Sustained weight loss and risk of breast cancer in women ≥50 years: a pooled analysis of prospective data”, women with sustained weight loss showed a lower risk of breast cancer than women whose weight did not change. Researchers conclude that the larger the amount of sustained weight loss, the lower was the risk of breast cancer.

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Women who lost 2 to 4.5 kg scored a 13% lower risk than women with the same weight. Women who lost 4.5 to 9 kg presented a 16% lower risk. Women who lost 9 kg or more reported a 26% lower risk.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the study probed more than 180,000 women aged 50 and older from ten prospective studies. Their weight was evaluated thrice over approximately 10 years: at study enrollment; after about five years; then again about four years later.

Moreover, women who lost 9 kg or more and gained some of the weight back also presented a lower risk of breast cancer than those whose weight was the same.

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"Our results suggest that even a modest amount of sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50," said Lauren Teras, PhD, lead author of the study. "These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of American women who are overweight to lose some of that weight. Even if you gain weight after age 50, it is not too late to lower your risk of breast cancer."

Researchers from the American Cancer Society, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and others used the Pooling Project of Prospective Studies of Diet and Cancer (DCPP) to study the link between sustained weight loss in middle or later adulthood on subsequent breast cancer risk.