The crucial role of fat cells and exercise in breast cancer

New research has found that hormones produced by fat cells in obese women can promote the growth of breast cancer cells, while exercise may help to stop the cancer from growing.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, highlights the crucial role of fat cells and the hormones they produce in the growth of breast cancer.

The researchers from York University in Canada used rodents in order to examine the link between obesity and breast cancer and whether interventions targeted at obesity counteract any of the life-threatening effects of breast cancer.

They specifically looked at the production of hormones by fat cells (namely leptin and adiponectin) which end up in the blood and make their way around the body.

Lead researcher, Professor Michael Connor, says differing results were seen in the lean rodents compared with the obese rodents.

"Our research has found that the characteristics of hormones produced by fat cells in obese people can promote breast cancer growth, whereas in lean people it prevents growth," he says.

"The characteristics of those hormones differ depending on whether the person is lean or obese and that determines whether the cancer grows or not."  

Professor Connor says the research points to exercise as being a potentially beneficial therapy in some breast cancer patients.

"Our study shows that voluntary and rigorous exercise can counteract, and even completely prevent the effects on cancer growth that are caused by obesity.

“We also show that even moderate exercise can lead to slowing of breast cancer growth and that the more exercise you do, the greater the benefit," he says.

For nearly a half century, researchers have studied the links between obesity and breast cancer.

Professor Connor says this recent study has revealed specifically that adiponectin and leptin are possible reasons for a poorer response to therapy and higher risk of death in obese people than in others.


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