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Weight loss reduces breast ductal fluid estrogens in obese postmenopausal women: a single arm intervention pilot study

Catherine L Carpenter12*, Karen Duvall3, Patricia Jardack4, Luyi Li1, Susanne M Henning1, Zhaoping Li1 and David Heber1

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Human Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2 School of Nursing, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

3 Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

4 General Clinical Research Center; David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:102  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-102

Published: 5 December 2012



Accumulation of excess body fat increases breast cancer risk after menopause. Whether the localized breast is differently influenced by adipose tissue compared to the rest of the body, has not been well studied. Our purpose was to demonstrate feasibility and preliminarily evaluate serum-based and localized breast biomarker changes resulting from a weight loss intervention among obese postmenopausal women.


We conducted a 12-week pilot controlled dietary and exercise intervention among healthy obese postmenopausal women, collected serum and breast ductal fluid before and after the intervention, and estimated the association with systemic and localized biomarker changes. We recruited 7 obese (mean body mass index = 33.6 kg/m2) postmenopausal women. We collected samples at baseline and the 12th week for: anthropometry; phlebotomy; dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (lean and fat mass); exercise fitness (maximum oxygen consumption (VO2Max); 1-repetition strength maximum); and breast ductal lavage.


Changes from baseline occurred in body composition and exercise performance including fat mass loss (14% average drop), VO2Max (+36% increase) and strength improvement (+26%). Breast ductal fluid markers declined from baseline with estradiol showing a 24% reduction and IL-6 a 20% reduction. We also observed serum biomarker reductions from baseline including leptin (36% decline), estrone sulfate (−10%), estradiol (−25%), and Il-6 (−33%).


Conduct of the diet and exercise intervention, collection of ductal fluid, and measurement of hormones and cytokines contained in the ductal fluid were all feasible. We preliminarily demonstrated estradiol and IL-6 reductions from baseline in both serum and breast ductal fluid among obese postmenopausal women who participated in the 12-week weight loss diet and exercise intervention.

Obesity; Postmenopausal; Diet; Exercise; Breast cancer; Breast ductal fluid