The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) released its latest report detailing the risk of diet, nutrition and physical activity on developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women worldwide. It is the fifth most common cause of death in women, though survival rates are improving. There are many reasons why breast cancer can develop, including somebody’s hormones. The report was a systematic review, this means all the latest research was reviewed to determine its evidence-based guidelines.
There was much in the news about alcohol and breast cancer risk, which is depicted in the following blog post; ‘A glass of wine increases breast cancer risk’. The report itself however identified so much more relating to risk of breast cancer. Here is listed a summary of the latest evidence from that report from May 2017 regarding the evidence of risk factors to developing breast cancer.
There is strong evidence to support the following to reduce breast cancer risk:
- Being physically active: vigorous activity preventing pre-menopausal breast cancer and moderate activity preventing post-menopausal breast cancer
- Being overweight or obese reduces pre-menopausal breast cancer
- Breastfeeding reduces risk in the mother
There is strong evidence to support the following to increase breast cancer risk:
- Consuming alcoholic drinks
- Development factors leading to increased height
- Being overweight or obese during adulthood increases risk of post-menopausal breast cancer
- Weight gain during adulthood
- Increased birthweight
There was limited evidence of reducing breast cancer risk through:
- Consuming non-starchy vegetables
- Consuming foods containing carotenoids
- Consuming dairy products
- Diets high in calcium
- Being physically active
Other established risks of breast cancer
– Starting periods before the age of 12, starting the menopause after the age of 55, not having children, having the first child after the age of 30. The opposite of all these actually reduces risk of breast cancer.
– Exposure to radiation, for example x-rays particularly during puberty
– Hormone therapy and oral contraceptives containing oestrogen & progesterone
What to take away:
Despite the fact this is a systematic review, which has concluded a summary of all the available evidence, these risks can increase or decrease the chance of someone developing breast cancer. This does not mean someone who has one or more of these risks will develop or has developed breast cancer as a result of these factors. It is worth noting not all of these risks can be controlled by individuals.
The WCRF have recommended that the lifestyle factors to prevent cancers in general are: to maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, eat a healthy diet and avoid consumption of alcohol (or at least limit alcohol consumption). This is sensible advice as a result of the report. There are also ten Cancer Prevention Recommendations that can be found on the WCRF website, which could help with reducing overall cancer risk.
World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer. 2017. Available at: wcrf.org/breast-cancer–2017. All CUP reports are available at wcrf.org/cupreports.
*Image taken from https://www.wcrf-uk.org