Breast Cancer Risk Is Higher in Women with Low Muscle Mass and High Percent Body Fat

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Since the threat of estrogen replacement has been put to rest, women are asking, “What are the real risks of breast cancer?”.

Several articles have come to the fore in the last few months that focus on the risk of High body fat and Low Muscle Mass in the occurrence of Breast Cancer.  Since the threat of estrogen replacement has been put to rest, women have been asking for the real risks of breast cancer.  These new research studies have starred in News week and Healthcare magazines.  It is important because many other studies before these two studies, have found that breast cancer is less severe in women who have taken ERT (estrogen), and not as frequent in women who are normal weight and who have a high muscle mass, verses women who are obese without much muscle. These facts also tie in with my over 30 years of experience in OBGYN.

Sometimes it is easier to understand and judge the results of research when we understand the mechanisms behind that research.  It is well proven that women who are obese often find their breast masses late in the progress of a cancer when they are larger because fat hides the mass from both the mammogram and from the patient feeling the mass themselves.  This risk of being overweight is simply anatomic, with fat obscuring both visualization and tactile evaluation for the cancer.

The next factor is that obesity accelerates after menopause.  The only change at menopause is the loss of Testosterone and Estradiol, and the increased production of Estrone. Breast Cancer and Obesity is more common after menopause.

As women gain fat after menopause they generally develop it in their abdomen which makes even more estrone and consequently more fat!  As fat mass increases the metabolic rate drops.  This is because muscle mass is replaced by fat.  Muscle is the organ that burns the most calories in the body.  As you lose estrogen, then testosterone, the metabolism decreases.  The opposite is true that if testosterone and estradiol are replaced then the occurrence of obesity decreases and so does the occurrence of breast cancer.

A study reported in JAMA Oncology studied the muscle mass and fat mass in women with stage 2 or 3 breast cancer.  The women who had a higher muscle mass had a much better survival of their cancer!  This is due to the fact that muscle is stimulated by exercise and testosterone, but after age 50, no amount of exercise can build significant muscle mass without Testosterone. We work with aging patients all the time and know that replacing testosterone with bio-identical testosterone improves the immune system and in that way decreases breast cancer occurrence and recurrence.

Not only does testosterone replacement decrease the cause of death from every cause, but it stimulates bone growth, muscle growth, and decreases heart disease and diabetes.

After all the years we have mistakenly aimed our guns at the wrong cause of breast cancer, estrogen replacement, now we can aim our efforts in the proper direction, toward the benefits of hormone replacement, weight loss, and weight bearing exercise to gain muscle mass.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.

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