Weight Gain Can Increase Breast Cancer Risk

"Hip-to-waist ratio (HWR) can approximate the amount of upper body fat [which is believed to be more connected with breast cancer than fat accumulated in hips and buttocks]," she said. "However, practical reasons, HWR would not be that easy for patients to measure and report."

Because weight is something that people can control to some extent, the researchers believe this study may help women get on a healthy track.

"We plan to examine potential genetic factors that may play a role in the relationship between weight gain and breast cancer risk," said study author Ahn.

What Women Can Do

Doctors agree that there are enough facts to encourage women to take health steps for maintaining a healthy body weight.

"Clearly, there is a growing body of evidence that women should be encouraged to maintain a weight close to the ideal body weight throughout their lives, and while this may help reduce risk it is not a guarantee of prevention," said Rosenberg. "Women should use diet and exercise to maintain appropriate body weights."

Dr. Marisa Weiss of breastcancer.org says the findings may offer women some hope for taking a proactive step to control their risk of developing breast cancer.

"Maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life is an important way for women to reduce their risk," she said. "Small and big weight gains and losses can make a difference. It's never too late to start."

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