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Lower Breast Cancer Risk By Improving Lifestyle Habits

Posted Aug 18 2010 6:58am
Over the years, individuals and organizations have been trying to spread the message that lifestyle habits can have a major impact on health and well-being, including obesity and breast cancer.  Despite the efforts to increase breast cancer awareness, it appears that the messages sent forth are not always heard or followed.  A couple of new research studies examined changes in lifestyle risk factors and the impact that this might have on breast cancer and overall health.

In a study of lifestyle habits , researchers accessed data from more than 1.5 million adults over the age of 18 that took part of at least one of the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys conducted between 1996 and 2007.  Trends in smoking habits, exercise habits, fruit and vegetable consumption, and body mass index were assessed during the study time frame.  Based on this analysis, it appears that as a population our habits have not changed a whole lot and in some cases have gotten worse.  The percent of people who claimed to currently be non-smokers increased by 6% (from 71% in 1996 to 77% in 2007).  Similarly, the percent of study participants who exercised during the past 30 days increased by only 4% between 1996 to 2007, an increase from 76% to 80%.  Despite these increases in healthy lifestyle habits, body mass index did not show any improvements during the survey period.  Additionally, the percentage of the survey respondents who consumed fruits and vegetables at least 5 times per day actually dropped from 48% in 1996 to only 38% in 2007.  While some small positive changes were observed, the percentage of survey participants who followed all four low-risk lifestyle habits actually decreased from 8.5% to 7.7% during the study period.  This suggests that while messages about individual healthy lifestyle habits might be getting heard, fewer people are successfully incorporating all four healthy lifestyle habits into their daily routine.

This might be one of the reasons for disparities in worldwide breast cancer rates.  In a recent news release , the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reported that breast cancer rates are nearly twice as high in the U.S. compared to South America.  While this difference is apparently partly due to technological advances in breast cancer screening and diagnosis, differences in lifestyle habits appears to also play a big role.  According to the AICR, 55% of Brazilians are at a healthy body mass index compared to only 36% of Americans.  As a population, statistics indicate that Americans drink nearly twice as much alcohol as Brazilians and only 4% of Americans are highly active compared to 37% of Brazilians.  According to the AICR, the better habits of Brazilians (healthy body weight, less alcohol consumption, greater amount of vigorous activity) are at least partly responsible for their lower breast cancer rates.

It is clear from these studies, that we still need to do a better job of spreading the message about the importance of diet and lifestyle choices for our overall health, including breast cancer risk. While we as Americans appear to have made modest strides in adopting some healthy lifestyle habits like a reductions in smoking and an increase in physical activity, we are still having difficulties fully adopting a healthier lifestyle.  It is important to remember that while adopting one or two healthy lifestyle habits is a good step in the right directions, there are many healthier habits we can choose to adopt into our daily routine.  By making these multiple changes, we increase our chances of living a longer, healthier and hopefully more rewarding life.

To learn more about diet and lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your personal breast cancer risk, read my FREE book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer .
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