Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Breast Cancer: Decreasing The Risk

"Alcohol is a carcinogen and it's recognized by the World Health Organization as a cause of cancer of the mouth, colon, throat, esophagus and stomach."
"There are 5,000 women in Canada who die from breast cancer each year. Looking at the size of the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer, approximately 500 can be attributed to alcohol use. In most cases of women who die of breast cancer, alcohol is just one of a whole range of risk factors."
"My advice is to be cautious with alcohol, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer."
Dr. Tim Stockwell, director, Centre for Addictions Research, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Essential Screening Tests Every Woman Needs

A doctor examining a female patient during medical examination.

"More than one hundred studies have examined physical activity and breast-cancer risk. And they've shown women who are physically active have a 20% to 25% reduced risk of breast cancer."
"Sustained activity throughout a lifetime is probably the best, but even if you become active after menopause, exercise reduces the risk."
"Our results haven't been published yet, but 150 minutes a week [of exercise] does produce positive results, while 300 minutes is even more beneficial."
"We ... looked at how physical activity influenced the biomarkers associated with breast cancer, and found the level of those biomarkers decreased [with sustained exercise]."
Dr. Christine Friedenreich, scientific leader, Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research, Alberta Health Services
In Canada drinking guidelines recommend no more than two drinks daily. Dr. Stockwell, on the other hand, feels that two drinks a day may be overreaching into greater opportunity toward cancer-onset territory. He researched well over sixty alcohol and breast-cancer-related studies emanating from the international scientific community. The conclusion he reached after studying those results was that even women who respect the modest drinking guidelines increase their risk by 37% by imbibing.

His recently released meta-analysis convincingly demonstrated that even with moderate drinking there is an increased risk for cancer. Women who consume the recommended-guideline of two drinks daily have a 8.5 percent increased risk of breast cancer as a result. Women who exceed those recommended guidelines place themselves at a 37% elevated risk. Erring on the side of caution, alcohol consumption should really be kept to a minimum, in other words.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society a third of breast cancer cases are preventable. Risk can be reduced by avoidance of smoking, radiation exposure and hormone therapy. Maintaining a healthy weight and if possible, breastfeeding if and when women have children are all considered to be advantages toward health maintenance and breast cancer avoidance, according to the Mayo Clinic.

New studies find that women can reduce breast cancer risk further by avoiding night shift work, by limiting alcohol consumption to less than one drink daily, and by exercising sufficiently to create a positive effect on breast-cancer biomarkers in the blood. And as well, every additional drink has the effect of increasing the risk of breast cancer, Dr. Stockwell emphasizes..

The International Agency for Research on Cancer's research findings were that night shift work creates an additional risk factor for breast cancer. This is the message that Dr. Carolyn Gotay, professor and Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Primary Prevention at the University of British Columbia cites. Research based on human and animal studies indicate that exposure to light at night disrupts a woman's circadian rhythm, inhibiting the production of melatonin, a hormone able to suppress tumour development.

As well, night light can suppress vitamin D, and contribute to behavioural dysfunction relating to lack of sleep and stress resulting from families functioning on various time schedules. "When you don't sleep, a lot of other things don't go well with your body and your life", stressed Dr. Gotay. Her colleague, Dr. Paula Gordon, clinical professor at UBC's Department of Radiology cites yet another study that made use of satellites to track neighbourhoods with the most night light, overlaying those images with a map of breast cancer incidence.

Breast cancer rates were 37% steeper in those areas with the greatest amount of night light. Dr. Gordon also pointed out that unsighted women experience lower than average breast-cancer rates rating as perhaps one comforting advantage for women who are blind. As for exercise, even moderate amounts of physical activity  are beneficial. Dr. Friedenreich conducted a recent study putting healthy, inactive postmenopausal women on a year-long exercise program, resulting in decreased cancer biomarkers.

An additional benefit is that women with breast cancer who exercise during their cancer treatments experience better coping mechanisms and improved survival rates through the improvement of their fitness levels, decreased fatigue, and better quality of life.

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