Lifestyle and risk reduction

In February 2008 Karin Michels - a prominent epidemiologist and Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School delivered a public lecture in Auckland on breast cancer. She discussed her own research findings on birth weight and breast cancer risk and also reviewed other lifestyle factors.

One of her slides towards the end of the presentation was entitled "Breast cancer prevention is not a remote possibility"

This amazing statement is in stark contrast to the message that is so often made that "there is little that women can do to modify their risk of breast cancer". It's significance was perhaps lost in the use of the double negative and would have been more apparent if phrased as

"breast cancer prevention is a distinct possibility"

The slide stated that a 30 - 40% reduction in the risk of breast cancer is possible simply by controlling obesity, limiting HRT and reducing alcohol use.

This message should have made headline news but seems to have gone unnoticed by the breast cancer advocacy groups and reporters.

Of course it lacks the glamour of the discovery of a wonder drug or miracle cure.

A 30 - 40 % reduction in breast cancer risk would be the most dramatic improvement in breast cancer management this country has seen!

Breast cancer risk increases dramatically within a Western, first world, industrialised environment. In this sense it is largely a lifestyle disease and I remain convinced that the solution to this scourge will come from altering modifiable factors including exercise, weight loss, diet, alcohol and exogenous hormone use.

These simple measures that can be implemented with immediate effect.

They require discipline and in some cases such as alcohol consumption, a change in societal attitudes.

What an exciting prospect, that  the start of a journey towards risk reduction and  prevention can begin immediately.

We do not need to wait helplessly for some magic drug or discovery.

The first step in a journey to better health that includes a lower risk of breast cancer is within the grasp of everyone - today!

 

 

 
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Trevor Smith MBChB FCS

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