How obesity may raise breast cancer risk

The Link Between Weight and Breast Cancer Risk

Women have long been aware of the increased risk of breast cancer posed by being overweight or obese. Now, research suggests that this risk could be even greater for those who possess a certain genetic marker.

What is the mTOR Gene?

The gene in question is known as mTOR. This gene is involved in both cell growth and blood-vessel formation, both of which are essential for cancer growth. It can be activated by an excess intake of energy, meaning if you take in more calories than your body needs, it can signal the gene, thus promoting cancer growth.

Increased Risk for White Women with Genetic Marker

The study conducted on a population of 1,300 white women and 1,300 black women revealed two key findings. Firstly, for white women with the mTOR genetic marker present, those who were overweight or obese had nearly 70% increased risk for developing breast cancer compared to those without the marker. Those who were both overweight/obese and possessed the marker had an even higher risk – 210% increase in risk compared with those not possessing the marker. Moreover, among these white women with the marker, the risk was especially heightened when it came to estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. The risk of developing this form of cancer was 8 times higher than those who did not possess the marker.


These results suggest that being overweight or obese may promote breast cancer development via genetic variations in the mTOR gene. If these findings are confirmed through future studies, medical professionals may one day be able to screen for this gene and identify those at particularly high risk for breast cancer. Weight loss would then become a priority for these individuals in order to reduce their risk. Additionally, more research into how different ethnicities are impacted by this particular genetic marker is needed.

It’s important to remember that any individual can still increase their chances of avoiding breast cancer by making lifestyle changes and following health care guidelines appropriate for them regardless of their unique genetics. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting regular screenings remain some of the best ways for all women to stay informed about their breast health.


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