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How unhealthy lifestyle triggers middle-aged risk

Wednesday July 20th, 2011

Being obese may be a key trigger of breast cancer in older women - because it increases levels of female sex hormones, researchers revealed today.

Alcohol and tobacco may also affect hormonal levels, researchers found.

But while alcohol and fat increase levels of the female hormone oestrogen, smoking increases levels of testosterone, according to researchers from Oxford University.

Weight on its own is the biggest factor in increasing hormone levels, according to the report in the British Journal of Cancer.

Researchers analysed details of some 6,300 post-menopausal women who had been involved in 13 different previous studies.

Researcher Dr Gillian Reeves, of Oxford University, UK, said: “Our study shows that changes in hormone levels might explain the association of established risk factors such as obesity with breast cancer risk.

"Other studies have found that weight and alcohol can affect hormone levels and this research confirms and adds to these findings and provides more information about how breast cancer develops.”

Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: “There’s already strong evidence that drinking alcohol and being overweight can increase the risk of breast cancer but it’s important to understand why these links exist.

"This is an important study as it helps to show how alcohol and weight can influence hormone levels. Maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing alcohol consumption are key to reducing breast cancer risk.”

Circulating sex hormones and breast cancer risk factors in postmenopausal women: reanalysis of 13 studies. Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. British Journal of Cancer, July 20 2011

Tags: Cancer | Diet & Food | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Elderly Health | Fitness | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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