Insulin Resistance, High Insulin and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women. It’s an important topic, especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer is influenced by both genetics and health factors, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes hypertension, diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. All of them are risk factors for heart disease.

What these health factors have in common is insulin resistance (IR). Insulin resistance goes hand in hand with high insulin levels (known as hyperinsulinemia).

The metabolic conditions listed above are often blamed on obesity. Yet it’s metabolic health, not overweight, that seems to be linked with increased risk of breast cancer.

While excess insulin does occur with overweight or obesity, some overweight women have normal insulin. And some normal-weight women have excess insulin. It’s the high insulin that appears to cause health issues.

High insulin has been shown to increase the risk of recurrence and even death in women with early stage breast cancer.

Bottom line: High insulin, not weight or diabetes, is the culprit in all the metabolic diseases above, including breast cancer.

What Can You Do About This?

(Always check with your doctor to get a qualified medical opinion on your health needs.)

• Let’s start with exercise. Work out 5 to 7 days a week. Exercise, especially cardio type, makes muscles more responsive to insulin, so it won’t take as much insulin to get the job done. That lowering of insulin levels is a primary health benefit of exercise.

Then there’s food.

• Avoid big insulin triggers – like sugar and white flour – to help you keep your insulin levels lower.

• Eat protein foods or have protein powder with everything you eat.

• Have some healthful fats with everything you eat.

• Don’t eat carbohydrates alone. The exception to this would be low insulin triggers, like vegetables (yes, veggies are carbs). In general, though, always eat carbs with protein and good fats.