Previous research has identified 'crown-like structures' (dying fat cells surrounded by immune cells) in the fat tissue of human beings and in the mammary glands of obese mice. In addition to the presence of these crown-like structures in the mouse mammary glands, the researchers observed increased activation of the inflammation process and higher levels of aromatase, the enzyme responsible for estrogen production.
To determine if these observations in mice were also present in women, these breast cancer researchers obtained breast tissue from 30 women who had breast surgery. Analysis of the breast tissue samples showed:
- 14 of the 30 women (47%) had these crown-like structures in their breast tissue samples
- As body mass index became greater, so did the severity of the breast inflammation
- Breast inflammation was also increased with increasing fat cell size
- In the overweight and obese women in the study, aromatase levels and activity were elevated
Overall, this new information outlines some of the biological processes that link obesity to increased breast cancer risk. Developing a better understanding of these processes might lead to better and earlier breast cancer prevention strategies. However, it is also important to realize that this research also re-emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight in our fight against breast cancer.
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