Yesterday, I wrote about how motivation, like an upcoming vacation, can be the key to successful weight loss. But if you don’t have a trip or other event planned, how’s dramatically reducing your risk of breast cancer for a goal? According to a study by the Fred Huchinson Cancer Research Center, losing just 5% of your body weight (the healthy way–with a smart diet and plenty of exercise) can help slash your odds of developing the disease.
The study followed over 400 sedentary women from the Seattle area who were either overweight or obese, and placed them into four randomly-assigned groups, each with various levels of health improvements. One group was told to exercise only, one was told to eat a healthier diet only, one group combined diet and exercise, and one did nothing differently.
The outcome was pretty impressive. Co-author Dr. Anne McTiernan had this to say:
Based on previous research, our results suggest that losing just 5 percent or more of one’s weight could cut by a quarter to a half the risk for the most common, estrogen-sensitive breast cancers
The key, McTiernan says, is less about the weight loss itself, and more about the reduction in sex hormones that occurs when overweight and obese women adopt a healthier lifestyle. Excessive levels of hormones like estrogen have previously been linked to the development of breast cancer–and this study saw that healthy weight loss was accompanied by a dramatic drop in those hormones.
“The amount of weight lost was key to changes in hormone levels,” McTiernan said. She also noted that exercise alone had little effect on weight loss (it rarely does), but that because it’s still really excellent for the body, that she recommends “both diet and exercise, because in the long run that should help keep weight down and therefore keep estrogens down.”