September 25, 2014 | by Nicole White
Weighing your breast cancer risk? One study suggests a measure to consider is skirt size.
A British study suggests that for each increase in skirt size every 10 years after age 25, the five-year risk of developing breast cancer postmenopause increases from one in 61 to one in 51 – a 77 percent increase in risk.
The new study, published online in BMJ Open, was based on information from 93,000 women in a British database for cancer screening between 2005 and 2010. All were 50 years old or older, and their average skirt size was a 10. Three out of four women reported gaining sizes. The average size for these women at age 25 was 8, and when they entered the study, the average size was 10.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Gynecological Cancer Research Center at University College London.
Even when considering other risk factors – such as hormone replacement and family history – increased skirt size emerged as the strongest predictor. The skirt size served as a measure of abdominal weight gain. While scientists haven’t pinned down the exact mechanism linking abdominal fat to breast cancer risk, it is known that obesity increases the amount of estrogen in the body. Many breast cancers rely on this hormone to grow.
Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., director of cancer etiology at City of Hope, likened the study to an older one that examined uniform sizes as a measure of heart disease risk. Train conductors, who worked on their feet, didn’t increase uniform sizes as much as bus drivers, who sat all day. The conductors, unsurprisingly, were at a lower risk of cardiac disease.
But like the authors of the study, Bernstein emphasized the study identifies no cause-and-effect link.
“Of course, we can’t say this is the final answer,” she said in an interview with HealthDay. Sizing in the United States has become more generous, she points out, so accounting for that would likely make the association between increasing skirt sizes and breast cancer risk stronger.
One way to keep breast cancer risk – and skirt size – down is exercise, a correlation Bernstein was the first to identify. Even a small amount of exercise can make a difference. Cutting back alcohol consumption and quitting smoking are also risk factors within your control.
Learn more about breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.
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