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Reducing The Risk Of Breast Cancer Through Targeted Diet & Lifestyle

12 months ago

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Posted on Oct 01, 2020, 4 p.m.

The risk of postmenopausal breast cancer is greatly reduced by being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight, according to researchers from the American Cancer Institute and the Wolrd Cancer Research Fund. 

Among women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cancer overall with there being over 2 million new cases in 2018 alone. There are many hereditary and genetic factors thought to contribute to its development, but there is also strong evidence that suggests that the risk of many different types of cancer can be greatly reduced through lifestyle choices which includes a being physically active, maintaining a healthy BMI, and adoption a diet that limits sugars, fast foods and processed foods while favouring a more plant-based approach. 

“Our evidence shows that fruit and vegetables, as well as whole grains and fibre, play a crucial role in protecting us against certain cancers, as well as weight gain, overweight and obesity,” Dr. Giota Mitrou, World Cancer Research Fund International’s Director of Research, wrote in a 2018 report entitled “Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective”.

The 2018 report detailed evidence od a diet including many non-starchy vegetables helping to decrease the risk of oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer. Experts are now recommending adopting a diet with the goal of consisting of mostly plant-based food choices such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans that are high in fibre, nutrients, and phytochemicals towards a healthy lifestyle that is thought to help prevent cancer. According to the researchers foods that are rich in fibre, vitamins and other natural phytochemicals are known to help protect against cancer. 

Research indicates that we should avoid processed foods high in fat and refined starches like white bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, and pastries. Diets that are rich in processed foods, fast foods, starches, and sugars often cause weight gain and obesity which is also known to promote cancer. Most foods will undergo some form of processing before consumption, but fast foods and highly processed foods typically have been through industrial processing and become higher in energy and lower in micronutrients. 

The researchers suggest that in general, it is best to avoid products such as potato chips and crisps as well as products made from white flour such as pizza, pasta, bread, cakes, pastries, cookies and cakes. 

Although most experts don’t recommend avoiding red meat completely, strong evidence exists that the consumption of processed meat and excessive red meat can also increase the risk of cancer. Research suggests avoiding processed meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processed to enhance flavour or improve preservation such as ham, bacon, salami, frankfurters and chorizo. A healthy diet does not necessarily have to include red meat as those who choose to be red meat-free can include more poultry or fish, and obtain nutrients through supplements and careful food selection. 

High on the recommended avoid list experts suggest refraining from drinking sweetened drinks and fruit juices. “One of the major problems with sugar-sweetened drinks is that they provide energy but do not fill you up. This can promote overconsumption of energy and thus weight gain. This effect is compounded when there are low levels of physical activity,” Professor Martin Wiseman, World Cancer Research Fund International’s Medical and Scientific Adviser wrote in the 2018 report.

Besides a healthy diet, another key component to a healthy lifestyle is exercise and physical activity, of which experts suggest a minimum of 150 minutes a week. A healthy diet and healthy body weight are important for reducing the risk of developing all types of cancer. 

Women can greater ly reduce their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by being physically active and maintaining a healthy BMI. Living a sedentary lifestyle and premenopausal obesity will not only increase the risk of breast cancer but they are also known to contribute significantly to heart disease, according to research from the American Heart Association. 

“You don’t have to start by running a marathon every year,” said Dr. Cindy M. John, a cardiology specialist at the Richmond Medical Center. “You can start out by walking 20 minutes five times a week. I also tell my patients that dietary changes don’t have start out as extreme changes. For example, instead of having dessert with every meal, start by limiting yourself to dessert once a week.

“Women are often the caregivers in a family, which means we focus on caring for others and often forget to take care of ourselves. But, it’s just as important to slow down and remember to care for your own health and your own body,” adds Dr. John who is a Board Certified Cardiologist who specializes in preventive medicine and risk factor modification.

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