Obesity Fosters New Fatal Type of Breast Cancer

It's hard not to know that obesity is a factor in many cancers, including that of the breast.  But an ominous new study has found that being obese puts you at high risk for a very rare but aggressive subtype of breast cancer.

Called "basal-like," it's found in obese women, whose bodies present a favorable environment for the biological mechanisms of this disease to ignite.

Breast cancer is not one but many diseases made up of several distinct subtypes, newswise.com reports. "The basal-like subtype, an aggressive form of breast cancer, is found in 15 to 20 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer, with a high percentage of cases found among young and African-American women," according to the Web site. The really bad news is that women diagnosed with the basal-like subtype often have a poor prognosis and cannot be treated with hormonal and targeted therapies.

Studying mice, researchers found that obesity "radically alters the cellular micro-environment of mammary glands in ways favorable to the growth of basal-like tumors."  The study showed that obesity "promotes a growth factor signaling pathway" between a growth factor protein and a cancer cell that is linked with basal-like cancer formation. In animals with elevated levels of HGF, the development of basal-like tumors increased.

“Many scientists study the tumor alone, but the stroma ‘soil' (the surrounding tissue of the breast), where the cancer ‘seed’ grows, is important in helping that tumor grow,” newswise.com quotes team leader Liza Makowski, assistant professor with the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

But there's an easy answer.  Losing weight.  OK, so not so easy.  But it's better than death.

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