Does it affect cancer risk if women have a lot of belly fat?
Excessive body weight can have a negative impact on our health and the development of cancer. Researchers have now found that where post-menopausal women are at risk of cancer, where body fat has accumulated is more important compared to the effects of generally increasing body weight.
In their investigation, the scientists at Nordic Bioscience found that body fat distribution has more influence on the cancer risk of postmenopausal women than body weight itself. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study, which were presented at the ESMO 2017 Congress in Madrid.
The distribution of fat mass plays an important role in the development of cancer
The finding should have a major impact on the weight management of postmenopausal women who are susceptible to weight gain on the abdomen, explains line Mærsk Staunstrup from Nordic Bioscience. When assessing cancer risk, measurements of the body mass index (BMI) and the percentage of fat in the body may not be the appropriate measures because they do not take into account the distribution of the fat mass.
Doctors examine 5,855 women for their study
The current study included a total of 5,855 women who had an average age of 71 years. The experts used a method called Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) to assess the body fat and body fat composition of the participants. The women were then further medically monitored over a period of 12 years. Using information from national cancer registries, the experts found that the ratio of abdominal fat to peripheral fat is a significant independent predictor of cancer diagnosis. Neither the BMI nor the fat percentage were of great importance here, the scientists add.
What types of cancer were most common during the exam?
There were 811 cases of cancer in the female subjects. There were 293 cases of breast and ovarian cancer, 345 cases of lung and gastrointestinal cancer and 173 other cancers. The doctors also found that only lung and gastrointestinal cancers were associated with high abdominal and peripheral fat ratios.
What factors increase the risk of cancer?
Additional risk factors for cancer were old age, hormone replacement therapy and smoking. But even after considering these risk factors, the fat ratio remained an independent risk factor. This information could be very important for most older women because menopause initiates a shift in body fat towards the central area, the scientists report. That is why older women should pay special attention to their lifestyle as they approach pre-menopausal age, author Mærsk Staunstrup explains.
Many hospitals have DXA scanners
Physicians can also use the information for a preventive conversation with women who are at an increased risk of cancer. Most hospitals have portable DXA scanners that allow regional bone and fat scans.
What effects does insulin have on cancer risk?
While obesity has previously been linked to an increased risk of cancer, the link to lung cancer is new and surprising, the scientists say. An increase in insulin, which results from the consumption of simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, wheat, rice and corn, leads to a fat accumulation that is especially visceral and abdominal, the experts explain. In addition, insulin has an adverse effect on hormone production and the cells in the fatty tissue lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body, which is another risk factor for several types of cancer.
The data from the new study give physicians the opportunity to develop a range of interventions in overweight patients. In addition to fat loss through diet and exercise, diabetes medications (such as metformin) could also reduce insulin effects and thus help prevent cancer. (as)