Gaining weight has never been considered a healthy progression by the medical community, but now, a new study claims that thickening waist seems to be particularly harmful, even raising the risk of developing breast cancer among menopausal women.
In a research paper published in the British Medical Journal on 24 September, it was ascertained that an increase of one skirt size every 10 years in women led to a 33% rise in the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, while an increase of two sizes per decade let to a 77% rise in risk.
The study, based on almost 93,000 women aged above taking part in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening in England, looked at the BMI (height and weight) of each participant, reproductive health; fertility; family history of breast and ovarian cancer; and use of hormonal contraceptives and HRT, all of which influence breast cancer risk. They were also asked about their current skirt size, and what this had been in their 20s. These women had no known breast cancer when they entered the study between 2005 and 2010.
During the monitoring period, 1,090 women developed breast cancer, giving an absolute risk of just over 1%. After a monitoring period of three to four years, they were asked about continuing the use of HRT; their general health; a subsequent diagnosis of cancer; and lifestyle, including how much they smoked and drank.
While infertility treatment, family history of breast/ovarian cancer, and use of HRT were all significantly associated with a heightened risk of being diagnosed with the disease, increases in skirt size emerged as the strongest predictor of breast cancer risk.
At the age of 25, the women's average skirt size had been a UK 12 (US 8; Europe 40-44), and when they entered the study at the average age of 64, it was a 14 (US: 10; Europe 42-46). Skirt size increased over the course of their adult lives in three out of four of the women.
Researchers Evangelia-Ourania Fourkala, Matthew Burnell, Catherine Cox, Andy Ryan, Laura Currin Salter, Aleksandra Gentry-Maharaj, Mahesh Parmar, Ian Jacobs and Usha Menon estimate that the five year absolute risk of postmenopausal breast cancer rises from 1 in 61 to 1 in 51 with each increase in skirt size every 10 years.
"We were pleased to find an association between skirt size change, which is easy to recall, and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women," study co-author and head of the Gynaecological Cancer Research Center at University College London Dr Usha Menon told CNBC.
Although this is an observational study and no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, an expanding waistline has been linked to other cancers as well, including those of the pancreas, lining of the womb, and ovaries.