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Top 5 tips for preventing breast cancer: Why lifestyle is important

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with antioxidants. Focus on a healthy diet can help manage weight.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with antioxidants. Focus on a healthy diet can help manage weight.

Experts at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in cooperation with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) published 40 tips for breast cancer prevention, survivorship, screening and treatment in 2010. In an October 1, 2012 news release, Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Center’s Public Health Sciences Division and author of “Breast Fitness” shares some of the top tips for breast cancer prevention 2012 that could be life-saving. You’ll also want to know what research shows about why healthy lifestyle is so important for preventing the disease.

Top tips from experts for breast cancer prevention

Here are the top 5 tips for breast cancer prevention that is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States.

1. Lifestyle: If you enjoy alcohol, limit your intake to one drink a day. McTiernan also notes smoking can raise the risk of breast cancer for some women. You’ll want to get your body mass index (BMI) checked also. You’ll have less chance of the disease if your BMI less than 25. Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Easy ways to stay active include housework, gardening or just taking a brisk walk.

2. Breast feed: Young mothers should consider breast-feeding for as long as possible. Doing so for at least a year could lower your risk of breast cancer.

3. No hormones if possible: If you’re post-menopausal, try to avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT), including “Bioidentical” hormones, creams and gels that are no safer than prescription hormones. If you have to take HRT to control menopause symptoms, avoid progesterone and limit therapy to no more than 3 years.

4. Know your risk: Ask your doctor about drugs to prevent breast cancer if you're at high risk. Consider taking a drug that blocks estrogen if you have a strong family history of breast cancer. Examples include tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors.

5. Get screened: Schedule a mammogram if you’re over age 40 and continue each year. Early detection of breast cancer leads to the highest cure rate.

Why healthy lifestyle is so important

Alcohol is known to promote the disease because of a protein called CYP2E1 that breaks down ethanol. When CYP2E1 is release it releases free radicals. The protein is found in breast cells.

Researcher María de Lourdes Rodríguez-Fragoso, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico released findings in April 2012, showing mammary (breast) cells exposed to ethanol undergo increased oxidative stress and begin to proliferate.

Rodríguez-Fragoso explained in a press release, “… if you are a woman who naturally expresses higher levels of CYP2E1 and you consume alcohol, you would be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer than a woman who expresses lower amounts of CYP2E1.” The finding was published in the FASEB journal.

Women with higher body mass index are known to be at higher risk for breast cancer, shown in ‘dozens’ of studies, according to the National Institutes of Health. Studies also show survival rates are higher for women who maintain normal body mass index.

Exercise is important for preventing the disease because it lowers hormone levels. Pre and post-menopausal women who exercised 2 hours most days of the week were about 30% less likely to develop breast cancer in a study conducted by Lauren E. McCullough, MSPH, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues.The finding is published this month in the journal Cancer.

You can read more tips on breast cancer screening recommendations, treatment and surviving breast cancer at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Research Center website. October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, making it a perfect time to learn and share your knowledge with other women.


Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center News Release

October 1, 2012

Reader resource:
Breast Cancer Assessment Tool

Breast Fitness
Dr. Anne McTiernan
Dr. Julie Gralow
Lisa Talbott, MPH


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