Cause of Breast Cancer Avoidable
There’s a rather prickly debate going on regarding the cause of breast cancer and the effect of lifestyle factors on the disease. A presentation at the recent European Breast Cancer Conference In Barcelona estimates that up to one third of breast cancers in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and upped the amount of exercise they do.
Early diagnosis and better treatments have slowed the disease, leaving experts to suggest the focus needs to shift to behaviors also thought to impact risk, such as eating poorly and being inactive.
Figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer have 25-30% of breast cancers being prevented if women were thinner and more active.
Breast cancer is known to be the most common cancer in women. European women suffered 421,000 new cases and just about 90,000 deaths from the disease, while in the U.S. the number of new diagnoses was at 190,000 and 40,000 deaths. A woman’s lifetime risk of getting the disease is about one in eight.
In the 1980s and 1990s the rates of cancer of the breast were on a steady climb upward, coincidentally as rates of obesity reached all time highs. Another contributor to breast cancer is now known to be the estrogen containing hormones that used to be prescribed to women after menopause. Once the treatment was abandoned, breast cancer rates dipped, and doctors are hoping for a similar dip if more focus was placed on proper diet and getting enough exercise.
British researchers have found that obese women are 60% more likely to develop any type of cancer. This is likely the result of many cancers of the breast being fueled by estrogen, a hormone produced by fat tissue. So, the heavier a woman is, the more estrogen she’s likely to produce naturally. Anything that reduces the fat, turns it into muscle, should also help reduce the risk of cancer.
To some this sounds dangerously close to medicine blaming women for their disease. It is important to understand that most of the risks for breast cancer, gender, age and your family history, are things you cannot control.
Others disagree, claiming it is impossible to ignore the links between lifestyle choices and breast cancer. And if we have information on something we think might help – and help a lot – not talking about it is a dis-service to all women, especially younger ones, who really need to get this message.
It’s not that we can’t be taught; people have changed their ways because of health advice on smoking and sun exposure. Or that we don’t care. But many of us are still eating an unhealthy diet and getting far too little exercise.
Our lives are hectic and we have no time. Some may even be indulging in alcohol more regularly than is good for them or not getting the rest they need. Bad habits are the easiest to pick up, and the hardest to break.
And our metabolisms as we age aren’t exactly making things any easier.
While the issue between breast cancer and lifestyle factors is complex and highly charged, the American Cancer Society points out that the risk appears to increase for those women who gain weight as adults, but not those who’ve been overweight since childhood. To help reduce your risk, the ACS suggests 45-60 minutes of activity five or more days of the week.
When it comes to the cause of breast cancer, the factors that you can control – staying active, eating right and limiting your alcohol intake – are at least as important as the ones you can’t.
Cause of Breast Cancer Avoidable