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AMERICAN MORNING

Paging Dr. Gupta: Obesity & Breast Cancer

Aired August 21, 2003 - 08:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: There's more evidence that older women who are obese have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at CNN Center with details of a new study that seems at least, Sanjay, to have a definitive link between fat and cancer?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been out there for some time, Soledad. This link, now study looking actually at exactly what causes this.

Soledad, we talk about obesity so much, certainly on this program. It's linked to just about every chronic disease and most cancers that you can think of. In fact, about 90,000 preventable deaths a year if you get rid of the overweight and obesity problem in this country. That is a little bit of an aside now.

Talking specifically about obesity and breast cancer, some specific numbers: a 3 percent increase in your chance of getting breast cancer for every one point increase in body mass index. That is a result of some previous studies. At issue now, why does this actually happen? After a large study from the "Journal of National Cancer Institute," this is what they found: Increase in weight leads to increase in breast cancer risk, specifically because of circulating levels of estrogen, also known as estrodile. That is the actual link now. It appears that people who have excessive adipose tissue, as with obesity, actually produce more of this estrogen thing.

Now what are the specific examples here? A person who is obese has a body mass of 30 plus. What does that mean for you at home? About an 18 percent greater risk of breast cancer than a non- overweight or non-obese women.

Soledad, I also mention, all of the people in the study were specifically postmenopausal women, and they were women that did not have existing cancer, so this is probably a true link now between obesity and breast cancer -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So then what is the percentage increase? How much does your risk increase with however obese you might be?

GUPTA: Well, this has been the subject of a lot of studies. Again, this is the first study actually showing why, but the percentage number is about 3 percent. So for every one point increase in body mass index, and body mass index a little bit of a complicated thing, but it's basically your weight and your height; it's an equation of those two things. Every one point increases your risk by about 3 percent.

We know that there's a lot of fixed factors that actually cause -- or link to breast cancer. Actually there's the BMI calculator there. You can take a look. Weight in kilograms over height and meter squared. Over 30 is obese, 25 to 29 is overweight.

But again, Soledad, there's a lot of things doctors have known for some time linked to breast cancer -- family history, early first period, late last period, number and age of pregnancies, contraception use, hormone replacement therapy use. You can also add now to that list, Soledad, obesity, again, with the numbers that I just shared with you.

O'BRIEN: Interesting information. Sanjay, thanks.

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