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Three ways to lower breast cancer risk

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

The conventional wisdom has been that, if you have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, lifestyle changes, that might benefit other women, won’t help you. Your genes rule, so the thinking has gone until now, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

Now, I’m happy to report, new research in the journal Breast Cancer Research suggests that you don’t have to be a hostage to your genes. The study,  by researcher Dr. Robert Gramling of the University of Rochester in New York, followed approximately 85,000 post-menopausal women for more than five years. And while it was true that women with a family history of breast cancer were at greater risk to get the disease, he discovered something very promising. Women who:

  • exercised moderately (20 minutes per day for five days a week);
  • maintained normal body weight;
  • and drank no more than one alcoholic beverage per day

… lowered their risk of breast cancer. Yes, even those who had a family history of the disease.

Among those with a family history who followed the above guidelines and developed breast cancer, the rate was six in one thousand, compared to seven in one thousand among those who failed to follow the guidelines.

As I’ve been telling my patients and readers for years, there are so many benefits to maintaining a healthy weight. This study adds one more.

For your own health and the sake of those who love you, take good care of your body and it should take care of you for a very long time.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

More media attention for the study

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Forbes reports on my study, showing that obese pregnant women should limit weight gain as does Medline.

Other media outlets giving the study prominent coverage are United Press International, Yahoo News, The Baltimore Sun, US News and World Report, and even the Times of India.

– Yvonne S. Thornton

My study on obesity and pregnancy in the news

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I’m pleased to see that the media is getting the word out: obese pregnant women should be eating healthier diets and limiting their weight gain.

In the past few days, I’ve been interviewed by a number of news organizations about the study. You can see some of the reports at the following links:


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Science Daily

The Los Angeles Times

and Health Day

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Study’s author concerned that new guidelines for pregnant obese women don’t go far enough

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

You may have read the headlines last week that The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is changing its guidelines for obese pregnant women. Instead of recommending that women who are obese gain at least 15 pounds during pregnancy, the IOM now recommends a weight gain of 11 to 20 pounds.

It’s a start. But, as the lead researcher of a new study of obese women, pregnancy and weight gain, I’m concerned that obese women are being told to gain any weight.

My study, which is being published today in the Journal of the National Medical Association, found that obese pregnant women who followed a well-balanced diet and gained little or no weight had maternal-fetal outcomes that were equal to or better than those who gained substantial weight.

As a specialist in high-risk pregnancies who has delivered more than 5,500 babies over a 35-year career and supervised the delivery of 12,000 more, I wasn’t surprised by the findings of our study. I know that those extra pounds mean extra risks for both mother and baby. Obesity greatly increases the chance of developing complications in pregnancy such as preeclampsia, stillbirth, and blood clots, among others.

Twenty-three of the more than 200 obese women in our study lost weight. The average weight gained was just 11 pounds. And yet, these women and their babies were at least as healthy as those who put on substantial pounds. There were fewer babies weighing 10 pounds or more, fewer cesareans, and the mothers were less likely to develop gestational diabetes.

You can read more about the study, here.

So, if you’re carrying significant extra weight, forget the old adage about eating for two. Believe it or not, for a pregnant woman of normal weight, only an additional 300 calories per day is needed during her pregnancy – the equivalent to a quart of skimmed milk per day.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH