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Int Semin Surg Oncol. 2009 Jan 8;6:1. doi: 10.1186/1477-7800-6-1.

Obesity in post menopausal women with a family history of breast cancer: prevalence and risk awareness.

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Department of Surgery, Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 2HQ, UK.



Obesity and physical activity are modifiable risk factors in the development of post-menopausal breast cancer. The aim of this study was to assess the level of awareness and prevalence of these factors in women attending family history clinics.


Women attending the breast cancer family history clinic from 2004 to 2006 completed a questionnaire (SP15 format) about their knowledge of and exposure to various diet and lifestyle factors. All women had been counselled by a Consultant Cancer Geneticist and were given verbal and written information on the effect of life style on breast cancer risk. Responses were analysed using SPSStrade mark software.


The response rate was 70% and two thirds of women were post-menopausal. The prevalence of obesity in post-menopausal women was 37% with 40% being overweight. The majority of women consumed a healthy balanced diet. Only 15% of post-menopausal women exercised for more than 4 hours per week. Two-thirds of women correctly stated that obesity increases their breast cancer risk and 73% of these were overweight or obese. Over 87% were correctly aware of the role of family history, 68% of a high fat diet, and 57% of hormone replacement therapy in the development of breast cancer.


Women attending family history clinics lead a high risk lifestyle for the development of breast cancer with high prevalence of obesity and low levels of physical activity. A campaign of patient education is needed to promote healthy lifestyle choices, especially physical activity, in these high-risk women.

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