Good News Regarding Breast Cancer
Alexander Mostovoy, H.D., D.H.M.S.,BCCT
I’ll get straight to the point – breast cancer, for the most part, is a preventable disease. Yes, you heard it right - surprised?
How do we know this? Well, let’s take a look at the following statistics. Breast cancer rates in North America are twice as high as in South America, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. In fact, AICR scientists estimate that about 4 out of every 10 breast cancer cases in the US and Canada could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and being more physically active. There is also convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Obesity rates throughout South America are considerably lower than in North America. In fact, according to WHO statistics, 55% of Brazilians, for example, are within the Body Mass Index “healthy” range of 18-24. Only 36 percent of North Americans are within this range.
WHO figures also show that the average adult in Brazil consumes about 1.2 gallons (5.3 liters) of pure alcohol per year. The average American adult consumes 2.1 gallons (8.1 liters) per year.
When it comes to physical activity, the difference gets a bit more startling. The percentage of Brazilians who are highly active is 9 times the number of Americans -37% vs. just 4%.
And finally, according to La Leche League, 93 percent of Brazilian mothers breastfeed their children, compared to 74 percent of American mothers.
The fact that breast cancer rates in South American countries such as Brazil are nearly half that of the US and Canada is a clear reminder that the everyday choices we make about our diet and level of physical activity are completely relevant.We have spent decades creating awareness about breast cancer, including billions of dollars promoting screening and early detection - yet cancer incidence has continued to rise every year.
Perhaps we should focus our resources on promoting prevention instead of fear. Each October we are inundated with Cause-Related Marketing when a nebulous “pink tide” rolls over North American retail establishments. Product manufacturers, from vacuum cleaners to fast food producers to the cosmetics industry - even wine producers - embellish their products with pink ribbons, promising to donate a small portion of their profits to research. For a fraction of the cost of this ‘awareness’ campaign, we could get the message out that a better prevention prescription looks like this: Women can reduce the risk of breast cancer by making basic lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, moving about more, staying lean, and drinking less alcohol.
I propose that we change our focus in the month of October from Breast Cancer Awareness to Breast Cancer Prevention by providing more relevant and realistic information that will assist women in developing a more healthy lifestyle, thereby proactively reducing their risk and incidence of breast cancer.