Monday, March 02, 2009

Alcohol and breast cancer...again...

Shortly after posting my last post on the link between alcohol and breast cancer, this appeared in my e-mail from the American Institute for Cancer Research:

I want to share some exciting news with you. Cancer prevention has taken a big step forward today. The American Institute for Cancer Research presented the findings of the most comprehensive report on cancer prevention policy ever undertaken at a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill.

Some amazing numbers are contained in the report:

We can prevent over 45% of colon cancer cases and 38% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. by making changes in our diet, physical activity and weight control.

Think about it: 49,000 fewer cases of colon cancer and 70,000 fewer cases of breast cancer a year.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

So I looked up this report online, which is enormous, to see what they had to say about diet and breast cancer in particular. This is my take: Nothing new. They basically say that it's good to have late menstruation and early menopause, early childbearing, lots of breastfeeding. Exercise seems to help in reducing breast cancer post-menopause. Being tall increases your chances of breast cancer (as if you could actually change your height?). And yes, they think alcohol is bad. I'm just not that impressed with these findings. Most of them are things we already knew, and that women can't really change. Of course you want to have a healthy diet, and exercise, etc. But will this prevent breast cancer?

The Silent Spring Institute makes a very intelligent case for looking elsewhere for the causes of breast cancer:

Many of the established risk factors for breast cancer—such as earlier menarche, later menopause, childlessness, and delayed childbearing—are ones women cannot change. And established risk factors do not account for all breast cancer cases. We simply do not know as much as we should.

Many people are now looking at our increasingly polluted environment as a possible culprit. Breast cancer incidence in the United States has risen since World War II, when industry began pumping out pesticides, plastics, solvents, and other chemicals, leaving residues in our air, water, and soil. Laboratory studies suggest that many of these chemicals may cause breast tumors, hasten their growth, or leave mammary glands more vulnerable to carcinogens.

The United States saw a decline in breast cancer incidence in 2003 and 2004, a change that has been largely attributed to post-menopausal women discontinuing their hormone replacement therapy after research showed that it can cause breast cancer. This trend actually strengthens the hypothesis that other exogenous hormones and hormone mimics increase the risk of breast cancer.

Despite these gathering clues, though, few studies have investigated the effects of modern chemicals on women’s breast health. If we are to have genuine hope of defeating the breast cancer epidemic, we must find ways to prevent the disease from even developing. And we must view environmental toxins as possible targets for our prevention efforts.

So getting back to the original "amazing news": I just think it's more of the same, and not really so amazing. Sorry.

P.S. What others have to say about this:

a post from another blogger who is also skeptical

National Cancer Institute's opinion

from the Susan Love Research Foundation

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