Why Keeping Slim Reduces Your Breast Cancer Risk At Menopause

Findings from a National Cancer Institute study in the USA show that the link between being overweight and increased cancer risk cannot be ignored.


Most women are conscious of keeping an eye on their weight, and menopause is certainly a time when some weight gain is to be expected. As the body’s natural production of estrogen falls away we compensate by producing it in the fat cells so some extra pounds are normal and what nature intended.

The key here of course is ‘some extra pounds’ and in fact keeping an eye on your weight from as early as age 20 can help protect you against breast cancer. This finding comes from a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study in the USA of 72,007 postmenopausal women who were enrolled in the NCI’s Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial.

Their conclusions are startling. When they analysed all the data they concluded that a 30-pound gain over the period from age 20 to menopause for a five-foot, four-inch woman nearly doubled the risk of developing breast cancer after menopause had begun.

Other risks

Of course other factors such as family history, whether menstruation commenced early (another high risk factor) and if a woman has had children or not were taken into consideration.

However, a simple weight gain of only 2 pounds a year over the period was found to be as significant as any of the traditional risk factors.

This extra weight was revealed to be as significant as family history of the disease, the age at which a woman begins to menstruate (the earlier, the higher the risk), or whether or not she has had children and the age at which she gave birth.

However, you have to keep a sense of proportion because double the risk means that instead of one in a hundred women it could be two, but of course none of us wants to be that second woman.

How to help yourself

Keeping a healthy eye on your weight obviously makes sense but at menopause this is often easier said than done. Oestrogen dominance is a factor in weight gain and women who have been on synthetic hormone such as the Pill/Coil/HRT often find their weight increases when taking these.

Rebalancing excess oestrogen with progesterone can help bring weight down and deal with the bloating and fluid retention that is also common.

Good hormone balance is essential, not just for weight but to help other common menopause symptoms such as flushes, poor sleep patterns and anxiety all of which seem to increase at this time of life.

Finding a diet that works for you is important, and that means a healthy one or weight loss can’t be sustained and the pounds creep back on.

There are a number of healthy diets around, see some suggestions below, but it is up to you to identify what your food weakness might be.

Sugar is now being seen as a major factor in increasing weight with empty calories for no health benefit so that might be one place to start.

The good news on the exercise front is that expert opinion has now swung towards more regular gentle exercise and walking still comes out as the best, easiest way to up your metabolism and reduce your weight.