US researchers analysed blood samples from 1,651 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observation Study. High fasting insulin levels were associated with a 46% greater risk of developing breast cancer.
High estrogen levels were also associated with an increased cancer risk. Levels of estrogen and insulin tend to be higher in obese women and this may largely explain the association between obesity and breast cancer, the researchers say.
Interventions aimed at cutting fasting insulin levels may reduce breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, the researchers suggest. Previous studies have supported a role for insulin in the development of breast cancer, they point out.
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