Sunday 15 December 2019

Going up dress sizes linked to cancer risk

Going up a dress size every decade from your 20s to your 60s increases a woman's chance of developing cancer
Going up a dress size every decade from your 20s to your 60s increases a woman's chance of developing cancer

Mark O'Regan

WOMEN who go up a dress size every 10 years, between their mid-20s and mid-60s, are 33pc more likely to develop breast cancer after the menopause.

And going up two dress sizes each decade pushes the risk to 77pc. Extra body fat is known to boost levels of the female hormone oestrogen which can act as a "fuel" for many breast cancer cells.

An expanding waistline has also been linked to other cancers in the lining of the womb, ovaries and pancreas.

According to new research in the prestigious British Medical Journal "a thickening waist" is dangerous because midriff fat is particularly harmful.

However, Dr Francis Finucane an Irish consultant endocrinologist who specialises in obesity, said women who believe their excess body fat is as a result of family genetics may be correct.

Studies suggest genes "play an important role" in developing various cancers. "But the relationship between fatness and cancers is a very real one.

"As a rule, the heavier a person is, the greater the disease risk. Someone's risk is proportional to the amount of excess body fat that they carry," he told the Irish Independent.

He's now seeing patients with the complications of obesity at a "younger and younger age".

He has treated patients as young as 11-years-old presenting with Type-2 diabetes.

"Those cases are very rare, but the fact that it's happening at all, is a huge concern."

An "increasing number" of patients in their 30s are being diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes.

"The textbooks would say that people under the age of 40 don't develop diabetes.

"But the rule book has been thrown out now in terms what type of diabetes different patients get."

Cathy Breen, senior dietician in diabetes and obesity management at St Columcille's Hospital in Dublin, said mothers in particular can struggle to manage their weight.


"Creeping weight gain is difficult to manage in the world we live in. High calorie foods are all around us, and a lot of people really need to work to manage their weight, particularly as we get older," she said.

"As we age our metabolic rate slows down; we tend to lose muscle and put on fat. It's quite slow and gradual - but it means you're burning less calories every year."

The Irish Cancer Society said international studies show between seven and 15pc of breast cancer cases are caused by obesity.

"Because these women have more fat tissue their oestrogen levels are higher, increasing the risk, and encouraging more rapid growth of breast cancer," explained Kevin O'Hagan.

He emphasised extra weight can dramatically increase the risk of developing bowel, esophageal, gallbladder and kidney cancer.

"Women over 60 tend to be less physically active, and their diet may be less healthy.

"Those two factors can contribute to developing breast cancer in those who have gone through the menopause," he added.

Some 93,000 women took part in the study.

Irish Independent

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