Losing weight through diet or diet and exercise improves risk for cancer in overweight or obese postmenopausal women, according to study results published in Cancer Research. The findings demonstrated that weight loss reduces levels of tumor-related angiogenesis proteins, creating an environment less conductive to tumor growth.1

Overweight/obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are known to increase the risks for certain cancers; however, the reasons for this are not clear. Therefore, researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to determine the impact of diet or diet and exercise on cancer-promoting proteins over the course of 1 year.

In the study, 439 overweight/obese postmenopausal women who did not have cancer were randomized to 1 of 4 groups: follow a diet that restricted calories and fat, participate in aerobic exercise 5 days a week, combine diet and exercise, and no intervention (control).

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Levels of VEGF, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), and pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF), all of which are proteins that enhance tumor-related angiogenesis, were measured at baseline and at 12 months.

Results show that participants in the diet and diet-and-exercise arms lost more weight than those participants in the exercise-only and control arms. Furthermore, tumor-related angiogenesis protein levels were significantly lower in the former 2 groups.

These findings demonstrate that losing weight lowers the levels of cancer-promoting proteins in the blood, thereby improving patients angiogenic profile. But diet or diet and exercise are more effective than exercise alone. “Exercise is important for helping to prevent weight gain, and to maintain weight loss, but does not cause a large amount of weight loss on its own,” said Catherine Duggan, PhD, principal staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch and the study’s senior author.


1. Duggan C, de Dieu Tapsoba J, Wang CY, McTiernan A. Dietary weight loss and exercise effects on serum biomarkers of angiogenesis in overweight postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Cancer Res. 2016 Jul 15. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-0399. [Epub ahead of print]