It is Pink October, a month dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. In the next 2 weeks, Battling Cancer will focus on the latest news on breast cancer.
There is no denying the genetic component of breast cancer. But having a family history of the disease need not be a death sentence. Studies have shown that through healthy lifestyle and behavioral strategies, breast cancer can be slowed down, even stopped in its tracks.
Familial predisposition to breast cancer is for real and the risk should be taken seriously. However, women should not live in hopelessness because there are ways and means of reducing the risk.
According to Dr. Robert E. Gramling, associate professor of Family Medicine, and Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center:
“It’s important to note that a family history of breast cancer can arise in part due to shared unhealthy behaviors that have been passed down for generations. Untangling the degree to which genes, environments, and behaviors contribute to the disease is difficult. But our study shows that engaging in a healthy lifestyle can help women, even when familial predisposition is involved.”
Dr. Gramling and colleagues looked at data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study which enrolled more than 85,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79, One group of participants had a family history of later-onset breast cancer (after age 45) and another group did not. The women were followed up for an average of 5.4 years.
Data analysis showed that three health behaviours were strongly associated with reduction in risk for breast cancer and the risk reduction was the same for women with and without a family history. These lifestyle factors were regular physical activity, a healthy weight, and less alcohol consumption.
Indeed, this is good news for women with family history of breast cancer. The study results show that even our grandmothers and mothers may have succumbed to the disease, we have great chances of beating it and so do our daughters and their daughters by reducing the risk through a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Gramling continues:
And here is another strategy to reduce breast cancer risk regardless of genetic disposition – breast feeding! I will tell you more about breast feeding and breast cancer in an upcoming post.