By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A woman’s chance of breast cancer increases with age — it’s the biggest risk factor — and for the first time researchers have linked a weight component.

Researchers have discovered a new link between weight and breast cancer risk. A study in the journal Cancer covering more than 60,000 women finds those who lost weight after menopause were less likely to develop invasive breast cancer than women who maintained or gained weight.

“The woman who lost 5 percent of body weight over just a three-year period ended up having a 12 percent statistically significant reduction in breast cancer incidence,” said Dr. Rowan Chlebowski.

Researchers says while it’s been known that obesity is a risk factor for older women developing breast cancer, it wasn’t known if losing weight could affect risk. About a third of postmenopausal women in the United States are obese.

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“It looks like once you get obese there is a lot of body signals that stimulate breast cancer growth and so the question is even a little moderate change in diet and moderate weight loss will reduce those signals,” said Dr. Rowan Chlebowski.

Sara Baron says she takes cancer prevention seriously.

“I’m post-menopausal,” said Baron. “I could stand to lose a few pounds and it’s just one more incentive to preserve on that path.”

She says it’s empowering to be able to do something to impact her chances of getting breast cancer and hopes other women will do the same.

Weight gain of more than 5 percent was not associated with breast cancer risk overall, but those women had a higher risk of triple negative breast cancer. That type of breast cancer tends to be more serious and aggressive.

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