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Study finds new link between breast cancer risk and weight

Losing weight & breast cancer risk
Weight loss linked to lower breast cancer risk 01:29

A woman's chance of breast cancer increases with age, but a new study suggests there are steps women can take that may help lower their risk. The study, published in the journal Cancer, found that women who lost weight after menopause were less likely to develop invasive breast cancer than those who maintained or gained weight.

"The women [in the study] who lost 5 percent of body weight over just a three-year period ended up having a 12 percent statistically significant reduction in breast cancer incidence," study author Dr. Rowan Chlebowski from City of Hope National Medical Center told CBS News. The study included more than 60,000 women.

Chlebowski says that prior to this study it had been known that obesity is a risk factor for older women developing breast cancer. However, it hadn't been established if losing weight could affect risk.

About a third of postmenopausal women in the U.S. are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It looks like once you get obese there's a lot of body signals that stimulate breast cancer growth and so the question is even a little moderate change in diet and moderate weight loss will reduce those signals," Chlebowski said.

Weight gain of more than 5 percent was not associated with breast cancer risk overall in the study, but those women had a higher risk of triple-negative breast cancer. That type of breast cancer tends to be more serious and aggressive.

The findings could spur women like Sara Baron to take action. "I'm postmenopausal. I could stand to lose a few pounds and it's just one more incentive to preserve on that path," she told CBS News.

She says it's empowering to be able to do something to impact her risk of getting breast cancer and hopes other women will do the same. 

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