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Weight loss lowers cancer risk

Even moderate weight loss can significantly reduce levels of circulating oestrogens which are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, US researchers have found.

Results suggested that losing just five per cent or more of one's weight could cut by a quarter to a half the risk for the most common, oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer said researcher, director of the Prevention Centre at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Dr Anne McTiernan.

The study in 439 overweight to obese sedentary women aged 50 to 75 was the first to show that losing weight through a healthy diet significantly lowered blood oestrogen levels in postmenopausal women and led to average weight losses of 10 percent of their starting weight. The most striking effect was if diet was combined with exercise.

"This shows that it's never too late to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk for breast cancer," Dr McTiernan said.

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Oestrogen only HRT reduces breast cancer risk

Women who have had a hysterectomy and who use oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy appear less likely to develop breast cancer in the long term than women who have never used HRT, new findings published by the Lancet today, Wednesday 7 March 2012, indicate.

Researchers followed postmenopausal women for nearly 12 years and found a 23% reduction in the incidence of invasive breast cancer in those who had used conjugated equine oestrogen therapy for an average 5.9 years, compared with women on placebo.

Those on oestrogen therapy who did develop breast cancer were also much less likely to die from the cancer than women who developed breast cancer in the placebo group.

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Smoking lowers menopause age

Women who smoke have a higher risk of early natural menopause, a review of eleven studies involving about 50,000 women has found.

The meta-analysis, published in the February edition of Menopause journal, provides more evidence to suggest that smoking is a significant independent risk factor for early menopause.

Natural menopause usually occurs about age 50. One group of studies in the meta-analysis found smoking increased the risk of menopause occurring before this age by about 43 per cent. Another group of studies found smoking brought forward menopause by about one year.

Early natural menopause is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, genital tract cancers and osteoporosis.

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Triglycerides predict stroke

Postmenopausal women have been urged to have their triglyceride levels measured by doctors following US research which found that high levels are the strongest risk factor for stroke in older women.

The study found that having elevated levels of triglycerides (blood fats) was more of a risk factor for ischaemic stroke, the most common type, than high levels of total or LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol.

Using data from a study in 90,000 postmenopausal women, researchers compared 972 postmenopausal women who had ischaemic stroke with 972 controls who had not had strokes.

Women with the highest levels were nearly twice as likely to have suffered a stroke as those with the lowest levels.

The research, which establishes elevated triglyceride levels as an independent risk factor for stroke, appeared online in Stroke in February.

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