For years and years and years now, women have used two pieces of fruit to define their body shape – and, to a certain extent, their health risks.
An apple shape, where body fat tends to be stored mostly around the waist, is typically considered to be an indicator of higher health risks, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
A pear shape, where body fat tends to be stored mostly around the hips and thighs, is generally considered to be “safer.”
However, according to a new study, body shape may not be as much of a risk factor as previously thought, particularly when it comes to breast cancer.
Researchers at the American Cancer Society are now suggesting that having an apple shape isn’t necessarily any riskier than being pear-shaped, at least in terms of breast cancer.
Instead, it’s more about having a high body-mass index (BMI), which is a measurement used to help determine if people are underweight, overweight or a normal for their height.
The new study involved nearly 29,000 women. Of these participants, 1,088 were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over an average of 11.5 years of follow-up.
The researchers found that a larger waist circumference was linked to a greater risk for breast cancer among postmenopausal women. However, they report, that link disappeared once the women’s BMI was taken into account.
“The message is that if you have a high BMI, regardless if you are pear- or apple-shaped, you are at higher risk of breast cancer,” study leader Mia Gadet said in a cancer society news release. “Most prior studies on this issue looked at BMI or at waist circumference, but had not looked at them together. This study brings some clarity to the association between obesity and risk of breast cancer.”
These findings will be published in the April issue of Cancer Causes & Control.
“We know being overweight, particularly when the weight gain happened during adulthood, is one of the important modifiable risk factors for breast cancer in postmenopausal women,” Gadet noted. “This new data indicates it’s not what shape you are, it’s what kind of shape you are in that probably ought to be their focus.”