Maintaining the correct weight for your height is a key part of reducing your risk of breast cancer. There are many reasons why you might put on weight. Inherited genes, lifestyle, and what you eat can all play a part.
If you’re unsure whether you are a healthy weight you can find out by calculating your Body Mass Index.
Being overweight or obese can affect our bodies in many different ways. It can help to promote the growth of several cancers, including breast cancer. Obesity has complex effects on the body’s cells. It can affect their ability to grow and repair, your immune system, and, importantly for breast cancer risk, your hormone system.
Fat (adipose) cells can generate the sex hormone oestrogen. This is especially relevant for postmenopausal women as fat becomes the main source of oestrogen after menopause. Having higher oestrogen levels postmenopause can increase breast cancer risk.
A large UK study identified around a 30% higher risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who were obese compared to those of a healthy weight. In addition to oestrogen, fat cells can release a hormone called leptin. Studies have shown that higher leptin levels can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Weight gain and obesity can lead to long-term (chronic) inflammation within our bodies. This means that the immune system can be active when it shouldn’t be. Obesity-related inflammation can also encourage insulin resistance, which means that there may be too much sugar in the blood, leading to several health implications.
Keeping a healthy weight can sometimes be easier said than done but try only to eat as much as you need – so you don’t gain excess weight. The amount you eat is just as important as what you eat.
Your age, sex, height, and activity levels all play a part in determining what portion size you should be eating. Judging the portion size you should eat is key, and your hand can serve as a simple measuring aid. Here is our guide to portion sizing:
Fruit and vegetables
Protein (beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and others)
Dairy and alternatives
The British Nutrition Foundation’s portion guide is a useful guide.
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