Metabolic syndrome affects breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: National Cancer Institute of Naples experience

Cancer Biol Ther. 2010 Dec 15;10(12):1240-3. doi: 10.4161/cbt.10.12.13473. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


Postmenopausal women show the highest incidence of breast cancer in the female population and are often affected by metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome (MS)--characterized by central adiposity, insulin resistance, low serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), high serum triglyceride and high blood pressure--seems to be strictly correlated to breast carcinogenesis. We enrolled 777 healthy women and women with breast cancer in our nested case-control study to evaluate the association between MS and breast cancer, analyzing anthropometric parameters (weight, height, BMI, waist and hip circumference), blood pressure, serum HDL-C, triglyceride, fasting plasma glucose, insulin, testosterone and uric acid levels and administering a questionnaire about physical activity, food intake, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, personal and familial history of disease. We found an higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome (30%) in postmenopausal breast cancer patients compared to healthy women (19%). None of the individual MS features was strong enough to be considered responsible for breast carcinogenesis alone. However, of the 63 postmenopausal breast cancer cases associated to MS, 30% presented three or more MS features, suggesting that the activation of multiple molecular pathways underlying MS might contribute to tumorigenesis. Our data support the hypothesis that MS may be an indicator of breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. The unsettlement of the hormonal arrangement in postmenopausal, along with an increase in visceral adiposity, probably favour the hormone-dependent cell proliferation, which drives tumorigenesis. Adjustments in lifestyle with physical activity intensification and healthy diet could represent modifiable factors for the primary prevention of sporadic breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Life Style
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Postmenopause*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Uric Acid / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Uric Acid
  • Testosterone