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Researchers followed nearly 5,900 Danish postmenopausal women for up to 12 years and found that abdominal fat was a bigger factor than body weight when it came to the risk of lung and gastrointestinal cancers.
The study was presented Sept. 10 at a European Society for Medical Oncology meeting, in Madrid, Spain.
The findings highlight the need for weight management priorities for older women, who are prone to abdominal weight gain, according to study author Line Maersk Staunstrup, a doctoral student at Nordic Bioscience ProScion in Denmark.
"The average elderly women can very much use this information, as it is known that the menopause transition initiates a shift in body fat towards the central trunk area. Therefore elderly women should be especially aware of their lifestyle when they approach the pre-menopause age," she said in a society news release.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Andrea De Censi, director of medical oncology at Galliera Hospital in Genoa, Italy, said the findings confirm the role that obesity, and particularly insulin resistance, play in several cancers.
Insulin also has a harmful effect on hormone production, and excess fat boosts chronic inflammation throughout the body, another risk factor for several cancers, he said.
"These data open the door for clinicians to initiate a number of interventions in obese patients. In addition to fat loss with diet and exercise, there may be a potential role for a diabetes drug, such as metformin, which can lower insulin effects and contribute to cancer prevention," De Censi said.
Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
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