Once again our local newspaper turned pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month but left out any mention of prevention. The American Institute for Cancer Prevention (AICR) recommends a combination of a healthy diet, regular physical activity and healthy body weight to lower the risk of cancer.
The AICR estimates that 38 percent of all breast cancer cases in the US could be prevented with simple, everyday changes to what we eat and how much we move.
That means, in the US alone, over 86,000 women every year could be spared having to face breast cancer.
We need to think of breast cancer as a diet-related disease much in the same way we think of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Prevention starts in childhood and teaching kids healthy habits is their best defense. That includes not using food as a reward and teaching kids to love food that loves them back (fruits and vegetables). Limiting added sugar to remain within the daily limits recommended by the American Heart Association is also important. Most women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons and most men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons. Most children should consume no more than 3 teaspoons a day. The average can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar so it is easy to overload on sugar.
A study conducted by the AHA found children as young as 1-3 years already bypass the daily recommendations, and typically consume around 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. By the time a child is 4-8 years old, his sugar consumption skyrockets to an average of 21 teaspoons a day.
New research highlights why limiting added sugar may help in preventing breast cancer.
Blocking dietary sugar and its activity in tumor cells may reduce cancer risk and progression, according to researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine. The study, conducted in fruit flies and published in the journal Cell, provides insight as to why metabolism-related diseases such as diabetes or obesity are associated with certain types of cancer, including pancreatic, breast, liver, and colon cancers…”Our study shows that sugar activates oncogenes in the tumor, which then promote insulin sensitivity, meaning that the exorbitant glucose levels in the blood pour into the tumor, having nowhere else to go in the insulin-resistant body.”
Physical activity has proven benefits when it comes to reducing breast cancer risk as well.
It turned out that women who engaged only in walking but did so for seven hours a week, had a 14% reduced risk of developing breast cancer over the years, compared to women who only got in three hours or less. Women who engaged in seven hours or more of vigorous physical activity had an even greater reduction in breast cancer risk – up to 25% lower – compared to women who got less than seven.
Instead of just focusing on awareness, let’s shift our efforts to prevention. Making it easier for more people to eat well and move more can not only reduce the risk of breast cancer but also reduces the risk for other diseases. So the next time our newspaper breaks out the pink ink, the community would be better served if it included an article about prevention as well.