New research studies are plunging ahead that show how obesity can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. Two new studies show that weight can affect the risk for breast cancer in black and Hispanic women. A third studied mice to test for biomarkers that might indicate risk for breast and ovarian cancer in overweight mice.

One study focused on how being overweight or obese affected the risk for breast cancer in post-menopausal Hispanic women. This has been shown before in white women, but has not been studied before in Hispanic women. The other study found an increased risk in breast cancer for post-menopausal black women who were overweight or obese.

Both studies were presented yesterday, October 30, at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Breast cancer is much more common in post-menopausal women than in younger women. The study about Hispanic women found that being overweight or obese increased the risk of estrogen receptor-negative and progesterone receptor-positive breast tumors. The study consisted of about 3,200 Hispanic women.

Esther John, the author of the study about Hispanic women, said that these findings should stress to women the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight.

"This has huge implications for not just Hispanics but all women. We cannot change genetics or family history, but we can do something about obesity. You can eat less, choose healthier foods and do more physical activity. It may not be that easy but it's possible. And it's important for not just lowering breast cancer risk but for many other diseases," said John.

The second study presented at the meeting yesterday consisted of 15,000 black women. The study found that being overweight or obese increased a woman's risk of estrogen receptor-positive cancer by 31 percent. That risk doubled among women who had a healthy body weight in their early 20s and gained most of their weight during adulthood.

Mandi Murph, a researcher working from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, is doing a research study using overweight mice to learn more about how fat cells and cancer cells communicate with each other. Murph thinks that cancer cells have a way of locating where fat cells are so that they can survive better. Murph is using obese mice to test for biomarkers that occur in obese mice that develop breast cancer, and how those are different from obese mice that don't develop breast cancer.

"We expect to develop a biomarker profile to show who might be at risk," Murph said.

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