Because my mother had breast cancer 13 years ago, this is an issue close to my heart and something I worry about quite a bit. This month the Nutrition Action Newsletter did a fantastic job of summarizing the findings of the latest research. Many people are confused about what increases and decreases breast cancer risk, so I thought I would provide a brief review of the information from the Newsletter.
Uncontrollable Factors that Increase Risk:
Age (highest rates are among women 70+)
Family history (Risk is twice as high in women with a first degree relative who has had breast cancer)
Genes (BRCA-1 and CRCA-2)
Breast density (more dense = more risk)
Benigh breast disease
Early menstrual periods (before age 12) or late menopause (after age 55)
Births (fewer than 2 children or no children before age 30 = greater risk)
Height (taller women are at greater risk)
Controllable Factors that Decrease Risk:
Avoid gaining weight (BMIs of 27 and above increase risk)
Avoid taking hormones like estrogen and progesterone
Exercise (yippee!! - the earlier in life you start, the better, but starting later in life still affords significant protection)
Minimize alcohol (even one drink a day significantly raises risk)
The jury is still out on the effects of BPA, folate, fruit and veggie consumption, glycemic index, pesticides, red meat, soy and vitamin D.