Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in females living in the U.S. today. It is a disease commonly associated with women over the age of 50. Although there are genetic forms of the disease which affect younger age-groups, most of the efforts at controlling this disease have been placed upon early detection. While mammography and self-examination have proven to be useful as a manner to help detect breast lumps, there really hasn’t been much emphasis placed upon prevention of this terrible disease.
According to Dr. G. Colditz of the Siteman Cancer Center and Washington University, approximately 50% of the cases of breast cancer could be avoided. Yes, that’s correct…avoided! The recommendations in his new report suggest that high-risk younger women could drastically reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by simply changing their lifestyles and taking precautions.
“We really need to go back and work at breast cancer prevention starting at a young age,” said Coldwitz. “Women need to have better access to understanding how breast cancer risk accumulates and how these lifestyle factors add up over the years to increase risk.”
For instance, did you know that your lifestyle in your early years can influence the development of breast cancer in your 50s? Have you ever read this or been told this very important fact?
My guess is probably not because most of the emphasis with regard to the reduction in breast cancer risk has been clearly placed upon early detection methods. If you consider the effect that lifestyle has upon the risk of breast cancer development, a few things become quite apparent.
Firstly, excessive alcohol consumption in early life can greatly increase your risk of developing breast cancer with binge drinking being strongly associated with the increased risk. How many younger women are regularly engaged in this activity? Some young women are routinely drinking more than four or five drinks per evening when they go out with their friends on the weekends. This is classified as binge drinking. Women who regularly abstain from drinking can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 30% compared with other women who have at least four drinks per week!
The diet can also have a very great influence upon breast cancer risk. Previous research has conclusively indicated that the regular consumption of more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats are associated with a lowered breast cancer risk.
The participation in a program of regular physical activity in younger females has also previously shown to be protective against the development of breast cancer in later life. Do teenage girls understand this concept? Many schools have limited or not enough physical education classes, further encouraging a sedentary lifestyle in a vulnerable demographic who is prone to this tendency.
Every year, it seems that there are a greater number of kids and teens who are becoming overweight and obese. Despite some of the misleading reports that suggest that these numbers have diminished; these statistics have been harshly challenged and for very good reason. The rate of chronic disease development has not borne this out.
Being overweight or obese are important independent risk factors in the future development of breast cancer.
Dr. Colditz has suggested, “Physical activity has the most breast-cancer-preventing benefit when women sustain it throughout their lifetimes, it’s never too late to start. Being obese after menopause is a key risk factor for breast cancer, but women who are able to lose weight in their post-menopausal years will bring down their risk of the disease.”
“Those strategies are substantially reducing the onset of new cases and even deaths from breast cancer in postmenopausal women as well as premenopausal women.”
I could not agree more. A greater effort at prevention of breast cancer is warranted!
Harding, A., “Could Half of All Breast Cancers Be Prevented?” Medscape web site; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/822644, last accessed March 31, 2014.