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Three lifestyle changes to reduce risk of breast cancer after menopause
Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

A report last week from The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund based on the results of 119 studies, concluded that three lifestyle behaviors - maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and limiting alcohol - can reduce the risk of breast cancer after menopause.                                           
Complete report is at: http://www.aicr.org/continuous-update-project/reports/breast-cancer-report-2017.pdf

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The risk of breast cancer increases each decade as women age with the greatest incidence of the disease occurring after menopause. Overall, a woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer during  her lifetime.

There are a number of risk factors associated with breast cancer, some that can be controlled and others that cannot. Among the uncontrollable risk factors are those that increase lifetime exposure of breast tissue to the hormones estrogen and progesterone including:

  •   Early menarche - Menstruation beginning before age 12
  • Late menopause – after age 55
  • Never having children
  • First child after age 30

Other uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Family history – especially first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter)
  • Genetic mutations – BRCA I and BRCA 2

Since there is relatively little we can do to change the uncontrollable risk factors, it makes sense to do all we can to address the controllable risk factors, especially those cited in the report above.

1.        Weight

There is strong, convincing evidence that greater body fatness throughout adulthood (greater BMI, waist-hip ratio, waist circumference) is a cause of post-menopausal breast cancer

There is strong, convincing evidence that greater weight gain in adulthood is a cause of breast cancer.

The AICR recommendations:

o   Keep weight as low as you can within the healthy range.

o   Don’t rely on supplements for cancer prevention –eat a
      healthy diet.

     Avoid high calorie foods and sugary drinks
     Eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans
     Limit red meat to one pound per week (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)
            

2.       Alcohol Consumption

There is strong, convincing evidence that alcohol consumption is a cause of post-menopausal breast cancer.

The AICR recommendation:

o   Don’t drink
     For cancer prevention, alcohol should be avoided altogether.

3.      Physical Activity

There is strong evidence that physical activity probably protects against post menopausal breast cancer

The AICR recommendations:

o   Move More
      Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day

o   Sit less

The preventative lifestyle changes above don’t negate the need for regular screening for early detection. As a reminder, the American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk of breast cancer begin yearly mammograms at age 45 and switch to every – other year at age 55.

For more information:

National Cancer Institute – Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool
https://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

American Cancer Society – Breast Cancer
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer.html

 


 


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