01 May 2012

Overweight or Obese Postmenopausal Women Who Lost Weight Reduce Risk of Cancer

A woman is declared to be in the menopausal stage once twelve months have gone by without a menstrual flow. She is then considered to be infertile and no longer needs to take into consideration the possibility of pregnancy.

Because of some confusion in terms, the term postmenopause is applied to women who have not experienced a menstrual period for a minimum of 12 months. A woman who still has her uterus (and who is neither pregnant nor lactating) can be declared to be in postmenopause once she has gone 12 full months with no flow at all.

Menopause is a stage in a woman's life when the primary functions of the ovary stops. These functions are
  • Ripening and release of the ova
  • Release of hormones that creates the uterine lining
  • Shedding of uterine lining (during the menstrual period)

This stage signals the end of the fertile phase of a woman's life.

Symptoms usually experienced by postmenopausal are hot flashes (intense heat with sweating and rapid heartbeat), low sex drive, and weight gain.

Weight loss led to reduction in inflammation

Postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese and lost at least 5 percent of their body weight had a measurable reduction in markers of inflammation, according to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Both obesity and inflammation have been shown to be related to several types of cancer, and this study shows that if you reduce weight, you can reduce inflammation as well," said Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash.

Video: Obesity and Cancer

Women in the trial who were assigned to a weight loss intervention had a goal of 10 percent weight reduction during the course of one year achieved through a diet intervention with or without aerobic exercise.

"So this program was highly achievable and reproducible. We are not talking about drastic weight loss," said McTiernan.

The researchers measured levels of C-reactive protein, serum amyloid A, interleukin-6, leukocyte and neutrophil in 439 women.

At the end of one year, C-reactive protein reduced by 36.1 percent in the diet-alone group and by 41.7 percent in the diet and exercise group. Interleukin-6 decreased by 23.1 percent in the diet group and 24.3 percent in the diet and exercise group.

McTiernan and colleagues found a mild dose response, as there were greater reductions in these measures among women who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. They also found that exercise alone, without a dietary weight loss component, had little effect on inflammation markers.

"This study adds to the growing understanding we have about the link between obesity and cancer, and it appears we can affect inflammation directly through nonpharmaceutical means," said McTiernan.


American Association for Cancer Research
Cancer Research
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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