Obese women who have not yet experienced menopause are twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer as slimmer women of the same age, researchers reported in a recent study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. However, obesity does not appear to be associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer in women who have gone through menopause.
Previous studies have consistently found that obesity increases the risk of colorectal cancer in men, but could find no clear evidence of this association in women. That may be because earlier studies did not factor in the effect of menopause on the risk of colorectal cancer in obese women. Although the study did not examine whether losing weight helps reduce cancer risk in young, obese women, these results indicate that women who are overweight may now have an added incentive to drop some pounds.
People who are obese have higher-than-average levels of insulin circulating in their blood. Insulin can lead to high levels of a substance known as free insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which previous studies have linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer in both sexes.
After menopause, the risk of colorectal cancer was no higher, and possibly lower, in obese women compared to thinner women. It's possible that estrogen produced by fat cells may help ward of cancer risk in obese women after menopause. The female hormone is known to be protective when it comes to colorectal cancer.
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