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Overweight or obese women who lost weight through diet or a combination of diet and exercise also significantly lowered levels of proteins in the blood that help certain tumors grow, according to a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center study published July 14 in Cancer Research (doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-0399).

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The study measured three proteins that are known to enhance tumor-related angiogenesis-the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors and enable them to grow. It was intended to see how cancer-promoting proteins changed when overweight, sedentary, postmenopausal women lost weight through diet or diet and exercise over the course of a year. The study enrolled 439 healthy women (they did not have cancer), placing each participant in one of four study arms: calorie- and fat-restricted diet; aerobic exercise 5 days a week; combined diet and exercise; and control (no intervention).


Study data found that women in the diet arm and the diet and exercise arm lost more weight and had significantly lower levels of angiogenesis-related proteins, compared with women in the exercise-only arm and the control arm.


The authors said that it is known that being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle are associated with increased risk for developing certain cancers, but the reasons for this relationship are not clear.


This study shows that weight loss may be a safe and effective way to improve the "angiogenic profile" of healthy individuals, meaning they would have lower blood levels of cancer-promoting proteins. Although the researchers cannot say for certain that this would impact the growth of tumors, they believe there could be an association between reduced protein levels and a less favorable environment for tumor growth.


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