Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Obesity May Increase Breast Cancer Risk Via Inflammatory Pathways

Obesity is now considered a major contributor to several chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer among others.  Initial research exploring the link between obesity and breast cancer suggested that the production of estrogen from fat tissue was one of the main factors linking obesity to breast cancer.  However, estrogen production is not the only pathway linking obesity to breast cancer.  A growing body of evidence implicates inflammation as a major contributor to breast cancer development.

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
These study results continue to confirm the link between obesity and breast cancer as well as providing additional detail on the relationships between obesity, inflammation, estrogen production, and breast cancer.  Based on these results, the study investigators suggest that in overweight and obese women, chronic tissue inflammation is stimulated, which increases aromatase activity.  An increase in aromatase activity can then lead to increased estrogen production.

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.   

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

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