The trusted source for
healthcare information and
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among women.
• About one in three breast cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle modifications such as weight management, exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption, according to a recent presentation at the North American Menopause Society 2019 Annual Meeting.
• Breast cancer prevention recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer are available to aid clinicians.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among women.1
About one in three breast cancer cases could be prevented by simple lifestyle modifications to weight management, exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption.2 During the North American Menopause Society 2019 Annual Meeting, Juliana Kling, MD, MPH, a menopause specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, outlined several breast cancer prevention recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research to aid clinicians.
“Given the magnitude of breast cancer occurrence and the accumulated evidence supporting prevention as the most cost-effective, long-term strategy for reducing breast cancer risk, lifestyle education centered on the American Institute for Cancer Research cancer prevention recommendations should be a core component of routine patient visits,” Kling said in a statement.3
The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research updated their breast cancer prevention recommendations in 2018, adjusting for menopause status when possible. Researchers examined modifiable risk factors, such as exercise, diet, and alcohol.4
As of 2015-2016, the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC estimated that 41.1% of U.S. women age 20 years and older were obese.5 Postmenopausal women have a 1.5 to 2.0 times increased risk of breast cancer if they are obese. Body fat may increase the susceptibility to cancer as a result of hyperinsulinemia, increased estradiol, and inflammation.6
Physical activity may have a role in preventing breast cancer. Research indicates that five hours per week of brisk walking can reduce the risk.7 The American Cancer Society advises that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week.8
In a 2011 large, prospective cohort study drawn from the Nurses Health Study, researchers observed an association between low levels of alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk. Cumulative average alcohol consumption over long periods of time, and both drinking earlier and later in adult life were independently associated with breast cancer risk.9 The American Cancer Society advises that women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.8
Research surrounding diet and breast cancer risk is ongoing. Study results indicate that a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy may be of benefit.10 Researchers from the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial studied the effects of dietary modification in 49,000 postmenopausal women with no previous history of breast cancer. They found that women who followed a balanced diet that was low in fat and included daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains had a 21% lower risk of death from breast cancer than women in the control group.11
Financial Disclosure: Consulting Editor Robert A. Hatcher, MD, MPH, Nurse Planner Melanie Deal, MS, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC, Author Rebecca Bowers, Editor Jill Drachenberg, Associate Editor Journey Roberts, and Editorial Group Manager Leslie Coplin report no consultant, stockholder, speaker’s bureau, research, or other financial relationships with companies having ties to this field of study.