It’s now been shown that being “skinny fat” puts a woman at a higher risk of invasive breast cancer. This in part explains why “thin” women can get just as sick as full figured women.
Excess fat is just plain bad, whether it’s packaged by a size 8 body or a size 18.
Skinny Fat Tied to Breast Cancer
New data that was presented at a conference on cancer and obesity reports that among postmenopausal women with a normal BMI (body mass index) but with higher body fat, a higher risk of invasive breast cancer came with it.
The conference was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Special Conference Obesity and Cancer: Mechanisms Underlying Etiology and Outcomes, Jan. 27-30, 2018.
“It was previously unknown whether individuals who have a normal BMI but increased body fat have increased risk of developing cancer,” noted Neil Iyengar, MD, medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“Our findings show that the risk of invasive breast cancer is increased in postmenopausal women with normal BMI and higher levels of body fat,” continued Dr. Iyengar, “meaning that a large proportion of the population has an unrecognized risk of developing cancer.”
Size Does Not Matter
So two postmenopausal women who wear the same dress size, can fit in the same bikini, are the same height and weight, can still have striking differences in their body fat percentage.
Suppose both weigh 135 and are 5-7. The first one has a body fat percentage of 27 and the second one has a body fat percentage of 14.
Though they can wear each other’s turtleneck tops and pants, they’ll look very different from each other in bikinis.
The first one will look soft, flabby and untoned, while the second one will look hard and buff.
The first one’s higher body fat percentage is linked to a bigger risk of invasive breast cancer.
“Body fat levels are typically measured via BMI, which is a ratio of weight to height,” spoke Thomas Rohan, professor and chair, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“While BMI may be a convenient method to estimate body fat,” continued Rohan, “it is not an exact way to determine whole body fat levels, as muscle mass and bone density cannot be distinguished from fat mass.”
This is why on two women of the same height, weight, clothing size and thigh circumference, you might be able to pinch a lot of fat from the thigh of one but not the thigh of the other.
Personal trainers measure body fat percentage all the time using calipers that take skin fold readings.
When just about all that the pincers are grabbing is skin in a 135 pound, 5-7 woman, you can bet there’s a much higher amount of lean muscle mass in that woman, when compared to her same size, flabby and doughy looking counterpart.
Rohan spoke of dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, which can measure for fat content more precisely than calipers.
• Data from the Women’s Health Initiative was studied.
• Women 50-79 were followed for 16 years’ average.
• A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.
• Participants had no breast cancer history.
• 3,460 participated.
• During the follow-up period, 182 developed invasive breast cancer; 146 were estrogen receptor positive.
• Women in the highest quartile of whole body fat mass had about a doubling risk for ER positive breast cancer.
• For each five kilogram increase in whole body fat – DESPITE NORMAL BODY MASS INDEX – risk for ER positive breast cancer rose by 35 percent.
Causal vs. Associative Relationship
Okay, so it’s been established that skinny fat is linked to invasive breast cancer. But does this mean that skinny fat, in and of itself, causes or ups the risk for this breast cancer?
Or might it mean that certain lifestyle habits, that increase the risk of BC, also cause a woman to be skinny fat – such as never stepping foot inside a gym?
Now, in all fairness, if you’re of postmenopausal age, you’re probably thinking of how you can’t relate to the images of much younger women with the fit strong physiques.
But I have that covered! Check out the women below!
Dr. Iyengar et al stated, “It is also notable that the level of physical activity was lower in women with higher amounts of body fat. This suggests physical activity may be important even for those who are not obese or overweight.”
So if you don’t think you need to work out because you’re already thin, THINK AGAIN.
The reason BMI is the current standard for assessing disease risk related to body weight is because, well, quite succinctly, it’s incredibly easy to calculate!
- Divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters.
- Divide the answer by your height again to get your BMI.
Your medical records have your height and weight. In fact, every time you see your doctor about anything, even a finger rash, your height and weight will probably be taken. This information is fed into a computer that instantly generates BMI.
Imagine how much time would be taken if every single patient who walked into a busy medical clinic received a caliper skin fold analysis.
• Changes in body fat over time, as this relates to breast cancer risk, were not analyzed.
• Subjects were postmenopausal only.
When women of size assert, “Fat people can be healthy; look at all the skinny women who get cancer,” I always think, “I bet those thin women are skinny fat!”