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High insulin levels raise risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women
Date:1/9/2009

the researchers assessed their fasting insulin level, naturally occurring levels of estradiol (a form of estrogen), and body mass index, or BMI (a measure of obesity). After dividing the women into four groups based on their fasting insulin levels and controlling for estrogen levels, the researchers found that women with the highest insulin levels were nearly 50 percent more likely to have developed breast cancer compared with women who had the lowest insulin levels.

Most of this effect was observed in the large subset of women from the WHI study who did not use hormone-replacement therapy. HRT has a strong effect on insulin and other hormonal factors, so eliminating this variable gives a clearer picture of insulin's effect on breast cancer. "Among these women, the influence of insulin on breast cancer risk was quite high," says lead author Marc Gunter, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology & population health at Einstein. "Women with the highest insulin levels in their blood were more than two times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with the lowest insulin levels." Moreover, "when we controlled for insulin, the association between obesity and breast cancer became much weaker," adds Dr. Gunter. "This means that a large component of that obesity-cancer relationship may be mediated by insulin levels."

The findings have important implications for prevention, and possibly treatment, of postmenopausal breast cancer, according to Howard Strickler, M.D., M.P.H, who was senior author of the paper and a professor of epidemiology & population health at Einstein. "Research now needs to focus on ways to reduce insulin's effects on cell growth and replication in the breast while preserving its positive metabolic effects.

There are several possibilities and working with our laboratory collaborators we hope to make fast progress," said Dr. Strickler.

"It is also possible that screening non-diabetic postmenopausal women
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Contact: Michael Heller
mheller@aecom.yu.edu
718-430-4186
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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