Nearly 40% Of Breast Cancers Are Preventable With Healthier Lifestyle Habits
Posted May 09 2011 12:27pm
We have spent a lot of time talking about risk factors that impact breast cancer... the risk for developing breast cancer, the risk for breast cancer recurrence, and the risk of dying from breast cancer. Many of these risk factors, like our genetics and environmental exposures, are generally out of our control. However, many diet and lifestyle factors have been repeatedly shown to reduce the impact breast cancer has on our lives. This is particularly true for factors like body weight, physical activity, and alcohol consumption. Breast cancer research studies continue to show us that excess body fat, excess alcohol consumption, and not enough exercise each increase our risk for developing breast cancer as well as our risk for dying from breast cancer.
While most of understand this, most of us don't realize the full impact these three lifestyle habits have on preventing breast cancer. The most recent version of the World Cancer Research Fund 's Policy Report ( free to download ) gives a clear picture of the importance of these three lifestyle habits. According to this expert report, maintaining a healthy body weight, consuming 2 or fewer drinks per day, and exercising for at least 30 minutes per day could prevent approximately 38% of new breast cancer cases in the United States. Similarly, following these recommendations would prevent 42% of new breast cancer cases in the United Kingdom, 28% in Brazil, and 20% in China. It is interesting to note that these lifestyle factors had less of an impact in China and Brazil, suggesting that they might already lead healthier lifestyles than those of us in the US and UK.
But what do these percentages mean in terms of actual numbers of breast cancer cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 202,964 new breast cancer cases in the US in 2007 , the most recent year with actual numbers available. If 38% of those could have been prevented by simply drinking moderately, maintaining a healthy body weight, and exercising regularly, then 77,126 breast cancer cases would have been prevented. That is a major impact on breast cancer incidence. While it can be difficult for many of us to adopt these healthier lifestyle habits, it is important that we try to do so as much as possible.