Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 242 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 29-Aug-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 30-Aug-2004
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Low levels of “good” cholesterol increase breast cancer risk

Postmenopausal, overweight, and obese women with low levels of the so-called “good” cholesterol (HDL-C) are at increased risk for breast cancer, according to the results of a large study of Norwegian women published in the 4 August Journal of the National Cancer Institute and funded by the Norwegian Cancer Society.

Researchers at the University of Tromsø in Norway reported on 38,823 women who had been followed for up to 21 years after initial health screenings in the 1970s and 1980s. “We found the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among overweight and obese women [with the highest levels of HDL-C] was one-third the risk of women [with the lowest levels of HDL-C],” the study stated.

This finding was not observed for postmenopausal women of normal weight or for premenopausal women of any weight status. The researchers assumed menopause to have occurred at age 50 for women in the study.The risk of postmenopausal breast cancer “was strongest among those who gained weight” during the study’s follow-up period, the researchers noted. The researchers also noted the increasing prevalence worldwide of “metabolic syndrome,” characterized by factors that include obesity, glucose intolerance, high serum triglycerides, hypertension, and low levels of HDL-C.

The study’s findings “suggest an interaction between metabolic disturbances (e.g., overweight or obesity and low serum HDL-C) in postmenopausal breast carcinogenesis,” the researchers said. They did not find evidence of the “same strong risk associated with total serum cholesterol for postmenopausal breast cancer as we did with HDL-C.” Low HDL-C may also be a marker of altered sex steroid hormones that may be increasing breast cancer risk in combination with metabolic syndrome factors. serum HDL-C) in postmenopausal breast carcinogenesis,” the researchers said. They did not find evidence of the “same strong risk associated with total serum cholesterol for postmenopausal breast cancer as we did with HDL-C.” Low HDL-C may also be a marker of altered sex steroid hormones that may be increasing breast cancer risk in combination with metabolic syndrome factors.


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