A growing number of New Zealand women will die unless they make
radical lifestyle changes at a young age, a leading Auckland breast
Dr Trevor Smith, speaking during Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
said New Zealand's breast cancer strategy was "an ambulance at the
bottom of the cliff" approach, which focused on screening,
treatment and searching for a cure rather than messages of
prevention through improved lifestyles.
"The trouble at the moment is that we keep on focusing on
finding cancer and we keep on focusing on better treatments, but
each year the number of women getting breast cancer in the country
goes up," he said.
About 2400 New Zealand women are diagnosed with breast cancer
each year. Of these about 600 die a number that has been relatively
static since 1995, New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation figures
Smith said New Zealand had one of the highest rates of breast
cancer in the world, and women who moved here from lower-risk
countries were still prone to New Zealand's high rate.
This suggested breast cancer prevalence was strongly linked to
environment and lifestyle.
In a new book entitled Breast Care, he recommends women:
- Have a lean weight.
- Regularly exercise.
- Avoid sugary drinks and energy-dense foods.
- Eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and pulses.
- Limit red meat, alcohol and salty or processed foods.
- Be smokefree.
- Have children young and breastfeed as long as possible.
"It just doesn't have the street credibility of a new drug or a
new breakthrough, and yet the science behind it is quite compelling
and clear," Smith said.
International research suggested such changes could reduce the
incidence of breast cancer by between 30 and 40 per cent.
Smith called on interest groups and the Ministry of Health to
promote a unified message on the importance of lifestyle
"We need to do better than what we've been doing each year
because it isn't really making much of a dent in the problem," he
Breast Cancer Foundation spokeswoman Suzanne McNicol said enough
was being done to educate New Zealanders about breast cancer,
including the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices.
Free breast screening, introduced by the ministry in 1998, had
inflated numbers because more women were being diagnosed and more
cancers detected. "Yes, the incidence of breast cancer is on the
rise but that is because more women are being diagnosed," she