Simple lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce the risk of breast cancer.
The WHO and major international cancer control agencies such as the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) or the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) regularly issue recommendations to the general public to help them have some easy reference points relating to the modification of the way of life and to protect oneself from such or such disease. For breast cancer, which affects more and more women, they can be summed up in 8 points:
1 Stay lean as much as possible, with a body mass index below 25.
2 Be physically active at least 30 minutes a day.
3 Reduce the consumption of energy-dense foods (junk food, for example).
4 Eat plenty of a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grain foods.
5 Reduce the consumption of red meats to about 500 g per week and completely avoid the consumption of deli meats.
6 Limit daily alcohol consumption to two drinks for men and one drink for women.
7 Limit the consumption of salt and products preserved in salt.
8 Do not compensate for a poor diet using supplements.
A clear benefit: three times less risk
The concrete impact of these eight recommendations on the incidence of breast cancer was recently evaluated by analyzing the lifestyle habits of 1,946 Spanish women, half of them suffering from this cancer while the other half was good health.
The verdict is clear: women who adhere to six recommendations or more have three times less risk of developing breast cancer than those who follow less than three recommendations, this increase even reaching almost four times for postmenopausal women. These increases in risk are particularly pronounced for recommendations relating to food and alcohol consumption.
Women who regularly eat and drink energy-rich foods (junk food, soft drinks) are 100% more at risk of cancer. The increase reaches 150% in those who do not consume enough plants. Consuming more than one drink of alcohol a day is associated with a 50% increase in the risk of breast cancer.
A quarter of women eat five fruits and vegetables a day
These observations show once again that the high incidence of breast cancer in our society is largely caused by lifestyle habits that favor the development of this disease. Bad eating habits, first of all, with excessive consumption of processed foods, overloaded with sugar and fat, which disrupt the metabolism and create inflammatory conditions that favor the progression of cancer. The negative impact of this junk food is all the more serious since barely a quarter of women eat the bare minimum of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, which deprives them of a precious source of anti-inflammatory molecules and anticancer. Increasing the proportion of plants in the diet while reducing that of junk food can therefore only have extraordinary repercussions on the prevention of breast cancer.
Breast cancer: increased alcohol consumption increases risk
The study also confirms the very negative impact of alcohol consumption on breast health. It has long been known that any form of alcohol, even in moderate amounts, is an important risk factor for breast cancer. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption by women has increased significantly in recent years, especially among young people. Nearly half of women aged 18 to 24 take a drink (4 or more drinks in a single evening) at least once a month, exposing them to far too high amounts of acetaldehyde, the toxic metabolite of ethanol responsible for carcinogenic mutations. The limit of one drink per day is important, ideally in the form of red wine because of the positive effects of this form of alcohol on other types of cancers (liver, colon, mouth).
Breast cancer prevention is not an abstract or theoretical concept: there really are lifestyle habits that can strongly modulate the risk of being affected by this disease and thus have extraordinary repercussions on the quality and life expectancy of life.
Castelló A et al. Lower Breast Cancer Risk among Women following the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research Lifestyle Recommendations: EpiGEICAM CaseControl Study. PLoS One 2015; 10: e0126096.
Prevent breast cancer with the Mediterranean diet