Breast Cancer

Article excerpt

"Behold the wounds, the most unnatural wounds, Which thou thyself hast giv'n her woeful breast."

- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright, King Henry VI, Part I, Act III Sc. 3 l. 54-55 (1592)

Harvard Health Publications released a list of approaches to reduce breast cancer risk. Since there is "no one big way," as the article states, that breast cancer can be completely avoided, seven combined factors could make a difference.

1. Weight Gain. Women who gain 20 to 30 pounds during adulthood (after 18 years old), have a 40% more chance of developing breast cancer after menopause. This is compared to women who gained 5 pounds or less. What's the connection between more fat and breast cancer? Well if there is too much fat in the body, it helps convert precursors into estrogen, the hormone linked to promoting breast cancer. Even with estrogren production from the ovarians gone by menopause, estrogen remains in circulation because of excess fat tissues. Recommendation: enter menopause at a healthy weight.

2. Activity Level. Exercise lowers the risk of breast cancer by 20-30%. But how much activity? Studies indicate at least three to four hours a week of moderately intense (brisk walking, stationary bicycling, stair climber, or elliptical trainer) to vigorous (swimming, jogging, aerobic dance, or racquet sports like badminton or tennis). How does regular exercise help? Obviously, it can keep weight down. It may also influence in limiting circulating hormones like estrogen from bombarding breast tissue. There has also been a link between insulin and insulin-like growth factors and breast cancer. Exercise is able to stabilize insulin levels in the blood. Recommendation: Moderate to vigorous exercise 45 to 60 minutes four times a week is suggested by the American Cancer Society.

3. Alcohol. The link between too much alcohol and breast cancer in women is not clear cut. Some studies have shown that alcohol raises estrogen levels or it may work with carcinogens. Breast cancer risk is increased in women who take alcohol who also don't have enough of the B vitamin folic acid. Recommendation: Women with a family history of breast cancer may limit alcohol to one drink a day and take folic acid of 400mcg a day. …