Losing Weight After 50 Could Lower Breast Cancer Risk, Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Image by RyanJLane / iStock

Currently in the United States, more than half of adult women are overweight or obese. While there are many reasons to promote healthy weight loss through diet and lifestyle changes, researchers have discovered a new benefit that could inspire postmenopausal women to change their habits.

Previously, having a high body mass index was considered a risk factor for breast cancer, but doctors were unsure whether weight loss after the fact would be able to effectively reverse the risk. A new study from the American Cancer Society investigated this to find an answer, studying more than 180,000 women over the age of 50.

Researchers studied women over a period of 10 years, beginning with the time of enrollment and following up twice more in five-year intervals. 

Results showed that even a small amount of weight loss, as long as it was sustained over time, decreased the risk of breast cancer in participants. The more weight was lost, the lower risk of cancer. Women who lost up to 10 pounds showed a 13% lower risk, while women who lost over 20 pounds had a 26% decreased risk.

Lead author of the study Lauren Teras, Ph.D., says, "These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of American women who are overweight to lose some of that weight. Even if you gain weight after age 50, it is not too late to lower your risk of breast cancer." Researchers can't give a concrete reason for why this weight loss lowers the risk, but they suspect that the weight loss reverses hormonal activity common with obesity. 

This study emphasizes the fact that it's never too late to begin your wellness journey. Women should be inspired now more than ever to live a healthy life through diet, movement, and positive lifestyle behaviors.

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