It may double or triple your breast cancer risk!
By Carol Parks, Contributing Editor
Here’s a striking cancer-predictor that warns you years and even decades before the fact…
Scientists are now warning that this pregnancy mistake can lead to not only direct pregnancy complications but also an increased risk of breast cancer… and several other types of reproductive-related cancers.
A recent study suggests that if you make this mistake during pregnancy, you subject yourself and your child to greatly increased cancer risks. Let me explain…
Continued below. . .
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Delivering a high birth weight baby more than DOUBLES your risk of breast cancer! This is now known to be an independent risk factor — that is, independent of other breast cancer risk factors.1
What do they consider a high birth weight baby?
In a study performed at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, the researchers considered babies above 8.25 pounds as “high birth weight”.
They found that breast cancer risk was 2½ times higher in women whose baby’s birth weight was in the top quintile, compared with birth weights in the lower quintiles. (A quintile is 20% of the total.)
Study leader Dr. Radek Bukowski explains it this way… “This means they have high levels of estrogen, low levels of anti-estrogen and the presence of free insulin-like growth factors associated with breast cancer development and progression.”
He suggests that although women are not believed to be able to alter their pregnancy hormones, they can take steps to boost their overall protection from breast cancer. Read on, because I’ll reveal some protective strategies you can engage in even if giving birth is ancient history for you.
These dangerous hormones hang around for LIFE!
Recent animal studies suggest that breast stem cells are involved in breast cancer development. These stem cells can increase or decrease their numbers depending on their exposure to hormones, including pregnancy-related ones. And breast stem cells from pregnancy maintain a sort of “memory” of earlier hormone exposure.
As a result, the effects of higher hormone levels don’t just disappear after pregnancy. They pretty much hang around for life, as certain body cells “remember” their former hormone exposure.
This might explain the boosted risk of breast cancer long after pregnancy. And especially so in women who deliver large babies. Apparently these pregnancy hormones create some kind of long-term effect that can lead to breast cancer later.
What if YOU were a large baby?
To cut to the chase… Yes, if you were a high birth weight baby, unfortunately you are at a higher rate of breast cancer before age 50, before menopause.
Some things you have no control over. And one of those is what your mother did or didn’t do while she was pregnant with you. But as with the mother, so with the child: There are ways to mitigate your risk if you were a big baby, so stick with me for a few minutes.
Also like the mother, scientists think the baby’s increased danger may be related to hormones in the fetal environment.
A baby is exposed during pregnancy to high levels of anabolic hormones — estrogen and progesterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factors I and II. Any or all of these can affect the baby’s mammary cells and how they proliferate, imprint, and reprogram.
Exposure to high levels of these growth factors can result in a large baby, and greater cancer risk later in life.
This association between high birth weight and breast cancer risk was greater in women who developed estrogen-receptor positive and progesterone-receptor positive breast cancer.
What’s more, those who were large at birth also had higher adult rates of lymphatic cancer (17% increase) and digestive cancers (a 13% increase) including stomach, colorectal and pancreatic.
As you might surmise, low birth weight was associated with less incidence of breast cancer among women under age 50 (pre-menopausal).
The hidden role of the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight
Another recent study shows how important the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI) as well as pregnancy weight gain are, as factors that predict their baby’s birth weight.2
While the purpose of the study was to see if high birth weight was predictive of adult weight problems and obesity (and it was), it’s not too big a stretch to suggest that the resulting obesity could be a step toward cancer.
Researchers in Norway did a population-based study where they assessed 58,383 pregnant women over a seven year period from 2000 and 2007. They wanted to find out if there was an association between the mothers’ pre-pregnant BMI and weight change during pregnancy — compared to their baby’s birth weight.
What they found is:
- Babies’ birth weight corresponded to maternal pre-pregnant BMI
- Babies’ birth weight also corresponded to mother’s pregnancy weight gain.
In other words, the higher the mother’s weight and BMI prior to pregnancy, and the more she gained during pregnancy, the higher her baby’s birth weight was.
In fact, every increase of 2.2 pounds in pre-pregnancy BMI spiked birth weight by .05 pounds. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can sure add up.
Let’s put some feet to those numbers. For example, if you’re 20 pounds overweight when you become pregnant, you’ll likely have a baby weighing one whole extra pound, which is a lot for a tiny baby. Suppose your baby would have been in the 7 to 7.5 pound range. Now you’re talking about a baby who just jumped into the heavy-weight baby range.
The “have a bigger baby” movement
of 30 years ago (revisited)
Interestingly, there was a time in the 1980s when women advocated that having bigger babies was a positive thing. (And so it probably was, compared to having a three-pound baby. But it’s wise to seek the middle ground.) Influenced by this movement, many women rejected the recommended 25 to 35-pound weight gain and felt free to gain 40 and even 50 pounds or more.
Those who do that have babies who are, essentially, obese at birth. Not a good way to start life.
The authors of this study encourage women to get to a healthy weight before conception, and stick to a low-carb diet and moderate weight gain during pregnancy, avoiding the extremes.
Pregnancy weight gain can TRIPLE
your risk of breast cancer
Women who did gain more than 50 pounds during pregnancy, and failed to lose it after their baby’s birth, tripled their risk of breast cancer, post-menopause. Those gaining more than 40 pounds boosted their risk by 40 percent.
This was discovered by researchers at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC., based on a study of 27,000 breast cancer patients in Finland.3
One of the study’s investigators explains, “Significant weight gain during pregnancy may cause changes in breast tissue that increase susceptibility to breast cancer in later life — roughly equivalent to the risk of post-menopausal obesity.”
As in the study reviewed at the top of this article, the Georgetown scientists believe that higher blood levels of estrogen during pregnancy fuel abnormal cell growth that can become malignant many years later.
Each 2.2-pound increase in pregnancy weight gain boosted breast cancer risk by 3.9 percent (adjusted for pre-pregnancy BMI). However, women who stay within the “normal” range of a 25 to 35 pound weight gain do not experience a risk increase for either premenopausal or postmenopausal breast cancer.
Incidentally, if you’re reading this during your child-bearing years, you may be interested to know that breast-feeding your baby and having more than one child are protective against breast cancer.
You can’t turn the clock back, but…
Here are 7 things you can STILL do to reduce your risk
If you were a high birth weight baby — or had a high birth weight baby — it is more urgent than ever (based on this emerging research) to change what you can still change to stack the deck in your favor.
I delivered both an 8lb 10oz and a 12lb 12 oz baby, so the news I just told you scared me. If you’re in the same boat, you will definitely want to do as much as possible to mitigate your risk factors, including the seven steps below.
Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard before, but maybe haven’t implemented. Others may be new ideas to you. All of them have merit, so pick one or two and get started today. Then gradually add more after you’re used to the first couple.
- Eat a diet composed almost entirely of vegetables, fruits, and non-GMO organic meats. Skip the breads, desserts, soda, etc. If you already have the pregnancy weight gain or large baby strike against you, you cannot afford to play around with foods that spike your blood sugar, lead to further weight gain, and are associated with increased cancer risk.Studies show that women with a waist circumference of over 34 inches were at a 30 percent higher risk of post-menopausal breast cancer than women with waist measurements under 28 inches.What’s more, scientists believe that estrogens are produced within belly fat. So this is an important consideration. Many people drop weight automatically just by forsaking soda, chips, and dessert. Once you’re three weeks in, you won’t miss these things nearly as much as you think you will.
- The flip side of the coin is to get up and get moving. This isn’t rocket science. You’ve heard it before. Exercise helps control your weight, stimulates your immune system, puts you in a good mood, relieves stress, and lowers many dangerous health markers (blood pressure and triglycerides come to mind). And too many other things to name here.
- Get plenty of vitamin D… best achieved by about 15 minutes out in the sun every day. The ideal amount depends on the time of year, the time of day (late afternoon sun is less intense), how far north you live, and your skin type. You will receive little vitamin D from the sun from September to April in the northern hemisphere (especially north of the Chicago/Detroit latitude). But at noon in July you can burn quickly. So use your judgment. During the winter months, up north, you will probably be forced to supplement with vitamin D3 (not D2). Vitamin D3 is proven to protect you from many different kinds of cancer.It is prudent to have your vitamin D levels measured to ensure you don’t get above the 100 level, if you are getting your D3 through supplementation. This is rare, but everyone absorbs vitamin D differently, so a word to the wise.However, your skin knows when to stop production, so you needn’t worry about D from the sun. There’s no way to overdose on that.
- Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep is protective against cancer. Shut off the computer and TV and get some sleep. You’ll feel more alert the next day too, a nice side benefit.
- Reconsider the advice you’ll be hearing throughout October from the American Cancer Society, related to their National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Mammography Day.Skip the mammogram, and instead get a baseline thermogram now so you can easily observe whether new or dangerous changes are taking place.Radiation is a known risk factor for breast cancer. If you already know you have a birth-weight related risk factor, why take on additional known risks from mammogram X-rays?Incidentally, you’ll want to consider other radiation risks too, at the dentist, the airport, and via various medical procedures.
- Remove any root canals you have. They are a known risk factor for many cancers. Strikingly, 97 percent of all terminal breast cancer patients have one or more root canals.If you don’t have any, care for your teeth like your life depends on it. That will help you avoid what your dentist will term a “need” for a root canal. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention…
- Limit alcohol consumption to two or three drinks per week, at most, or better yet — abstain totally. Multiple drinks daily are associated with increased breast cancer risk.
We all recognize that hindsight is 20:20. If you know and love young ladies who will take advice, this is critical for their future. So pass it on.
But if you can’t turn back the clock, today is the best time to start aggressively implementing these seven strategies to lower your risk of the cancer 200,000 American women will be diagnosed with this year. Especially if you gave birth to a high birth weight baby, or you were one.
Lee Euler, Publisher