Breast Cancer, Obesity and Diabetes

Breast Cancer, Obesity and DiabetesWhat do these three conditions have in common after a woman is over 60 years of age?

It has been known that there is an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer if a woman is obese, particularly after the age of 60, but new information is being released that there is now a link between breast cancer, obesity and diabetes, with this being the first time that the link with diabetes has clearly been evident.  If a woman is over the age of 60 and obese, she has an increased risk of breast cancer and diabetes, conditions that are life threatening.

Researcher Dr. Hakan Olsson, Professor of Oncology at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, will present his study results the week of December 5, 2011, at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

For his study results, Olsson reviewed the medicals records of more than 2,700 patients.  This review of the 2,700 patients covered up to a 10-year span before the patients were diagnosed with breast cancer.  As well, he studied records for approximately 20,500 patients who never developed cancer.  In essence, the study was looking at the population as a whole and not just women with breast cancer.

If a woman was obese after the age of 60, she had a 55 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.  An example:  While 15 of 100 obese women, at the most, would be diagnosed with breast cancer, less than 10 of the 100 women in the general populace would be expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, Olsson stated.  Also, up to four years after being diagnosed with diabetes, women of any age had a 37 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

As far as cholesterol levels, Olsson found a connection between low levels of blood lipids (fat), mostly cholesterol, and a 25 percent higher risk of breast cancer.  Women with higher cholesterol levels had a lower risk of a breast cancer diagnosis, and Olsson stated that this unusual finding needs to be further studied.

Olsson also found that the medication used by a female to control their diabetes also seemed to influence their breast cancer risk.  Lantus (Glargine) was linked with a nearly doubled risk of breast cancer.  But, Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet and others) was linked with a slightly lower risk.

Olsson stated that the study numbers were not high enough to come to a final determination that there is a direct link between a cancer diagnosis risk and diabetes medication, and if someone were concerned that they should consult with their doctor about what type medication was best for them.

Because Olsson’s study results were present at a medical meeting, the conclusions are considered preliminary until such time as they are published in a journal that has been peer reviewed.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Director of Women’s Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, commented on the new study results:  “The new finding is the diabetes and cancer link.”  But, she added, that it did not surprise her.  “We’ve known that obesity is associated with breast cancer,” and, she noted, “a lot of obese people have diabetes.”

She added a message for women who wish to minimize their breast cancer risk:  “Maintain a healthy weight and avoid diabetes, which will also help their heart health.”

Dr. Olsson plans to continue his research, particularly regarding the cholesterol level results and breast cancer connection.