We are becoming more aware of the effects of obesity, a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and environmental factors on the development of cancer as well as other diseases. Here are some facts regarding breast cancer:
- Postmenopausal women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and if they’ve been treated for breast cancer, their risk of recurrence is increased if they are overweight
- Moderate exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer development as well as the risk of recurrent disease
- A high fat diet has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer
- More than 3-6 alcoholic drinks per week in women is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and some studies have suggested that there is no “safe” amount of alcohol intake when it comes to the impact on breast cancer risk.
Unfortunately is is possible to do everything “right” and still develop breast cancer – by adopting healthier habits we can reduce the risk of breast cancer but there is no food or supplement that can reliably prevent breast cancer from developing. Breast cancer and many other diseases are caused by multiple factors, which is one of the reasons that studies evaluating diet and lifestyle are so difficult. It is also why the studies that pop up every so often regarding the benefits of a particular nutrient or extract need to be placed in proper perspective – it’s usually not that simple.
My recommendation is to simply try to take good care of yourself. As we age, we become less able to handle the effects of lack of sleep, heavy alcohol intake, chronic stress, and poor dietary habits. Our bodies have changed, and we have to change our habits if we want to try to stay healthy. Here are some suggestions:
- Eat more veggies! A nutritional supplement (for example broccoli extract) is not the answer. The way the real foods interact is very complex and cannot be replicated in a pill.
- Reduce the amount of saturated dietary fat (usually from meats and processed foods) – focus on the healthy fats such as those found in plants, salmon and nuts / seeds – in moderation. Calories still count!
- Include plant-based sources of protein such as legumes and quinoa
- Keep alcohol intake to less than 3-6 drinks per week – and no, you can’t save up your week’s “allowance” for Friday night…
- Moderate but regular exercise – it’s ok if you can’t make it through a spinning class like you did 10 years ago – a good 30 minute walk once a day is fine. If you need that endorphin rush of strenuous activity, make sure to balance it with some more meditative exercise such as yoga or pilates
- Proper sleep – we all need 7-9 hours a night, period. Our bodies repair themselves during sleep, and you can’t “catch up” on the weekends.
It can be intimidating to try to change multiple factors at once. My patients know I am a fan of “small tweaks” to get started. You can build from there. Keep in mind that these changes are not only for breast cancer risk reduction – these are steps that can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions, and can result in a longer and healthier life.
This website is for general information only. Medical information changes rapidly and no online site should be used as a substitute for personal medical attention. The opinions expressed here are those of Dr. Attai and do not reflect the opinions of UCLA Health or the David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Attai does not consult with or have financial relationships with any websites, companies or products, including those that may be mentioned or referenced on this website.