HEALTH

Research finds elevated insulin levels in postmenopausal women may raise risk of breast cancer

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Elevated insulin levels in the blood appear to raise the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, according to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Their findings were published in the online version of the International Journal of Cancer July 9.

Increased breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women has previously been linked to obesity and diabetes. Both conditions involve insulin resistance, which causes increases in circulating levels of insulin. Since insulin is known to promote cell division and enhance breast tumor growth in animal models, the Einstein scientists reasoned that relatively high insulin levels may contribute to breast cancer risk in women.

“Up to now, only a few studies have directly investigated whether insulin levels are associated with breast cancer risk, and those studies have yielded conflicting results,” stated Geoffrey Kabat, senior epidemiologist in the department of epidemiology and population health at Einstein and the lead author of the paper. “Those other studies were based on just a single baseline measurement of insulin, while our study involved analyzing repeated measurements of insulin taken over several years — which provides a more accurate picture of the possible association between insulin levels and breast cancer risk.”

An earlier study linking insulin levels with breast cancer risk was carried out by Einstein researchers and was published in the January 7, 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In the most recent study, Kabat and his colleagues analyzed data on 5,450 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a large multicenter study investigating the influence of a number of factors on women’s health. Most of the women had participated in the clinical trial portion of the study and provided fasting blood samples at the start of the study and then at years one, three and six. The remaining women, who were enrolled in a separate “observational” component of the study, provided fasting blood samples at baseline and at year three of the study. Among all these women, 190 cases of breast cancer were identified over eight years of follow-up.

The analysis by Kabat and colleagues revealed a strong association between elevated insulin levels and increased risk for breast cancer.

After dividing the participants into three groups based on their insulin levels, the researchers found that women in the upper third for insulin level were more than twice as likely to develop breast cancer, compared with women in bottom third for insulin level.

Notably, the link between elevated insulin level and breast cancer was strongest among lean women and weakest among obese women (who, in general, have higher insulin levels compared with lean women).

“This finding is potentially important because it indicates that, in postmenopausal women, insulin may be a risk factor for breast cancer that is independent of obesity,” Kabat said. However, because the number of lean women was small, this finding is preliminary.

While these results require confirmation from other studies, Kabat noted that the current recommendations for reducing breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women — including maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical exercise — can help to reduce insulin levels.

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McNeil Consumer Healthcare addresses acetaminophen concerns on Tylenol.com

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. In the wake of the news around acetaminophen last week, McNeil Consumer Healthcare posted a public letter at www.tylenol.com to explain the news to Tylenol users.

“Recently, there have been reports about acetaminophen, the medicine in Tylenol, and the potential for liver damage if the medicine is misused or taken in overdose amounts,” the letter, signed by Edwin Kuffner, senior medical director, medical affairs at McNeil, opened. “As the makers of Tylenol, we share the FDA’s goal of helping to ensure that over-the-counter and prescription medicines are used safely and properly,” he said. “[But] Tylenol, when taken as directed, remains the safest pain reliever people can take.”

The letter goes on to explain that it’s inappropriate use of acetaminophen products, when patients consume more than the recommended dosage, that is linked to increased liver damage risk.

That message was replicated last week with full-page ads in USAToday, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among other papers.

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Isopure Co. to roll out Isopure Plus nationwide

BY Michael Johnsen

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. The Isopure Company on Tuesday announced the nationwide rollout of Isopure Plus, a line of clear, protein drinks offering seniors, people with nutritional challenges, and those recovering from weight-loss surgery or medical treatment a clear alternative to thick or milky nutrition drinks, the company stated.

Shipping this fall, Isopure Plus drinks are formulated with 15 grams of whey protein per eight-ounce serving and are available in two flavors — alpine punch and grape frost.

“The revolution in nutrition has begun,” stated Hal Katz, Isopure CEO. “Ready-to-drink nutrition formulas have changed little since they were first introduced more than a decade ago. The market has lost many consumers to taste fatigue and lack of variety. Isopure Plus breaks through the taste and consistency bottleneck and also is perfectly positioned to capitalize on emerging market trends such as an aging population and increased interest in weight-loss surgery.”

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