Diet and Exposure to sunlight in Breast Cancer risk.





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The incidence of breast cancer has been increasing steadily for decades. In 1972 when President Nixon declared our national war on cancer, a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer was 1 in 20. Today breast cancer rates have escalated to the point where women's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8. In the year 2000, the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 182,800 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 40,800 women will die from it. This means that every three minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer and every twelve minutes, a woman dies from this dreaded disease. Breast cancer has become the second largest cause of cancer death in women, after skin cancer, and the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 35 and 54. Consequently, some physicians and research scientists are now referring to this as the breast cancer epidemic.

The risk factors for breast cancer can be divided into two categories, uncontrollable and controllable. The major uncontrollable risk factors are related to issues involving gender and a woman's menstrual, reproductive, and family history. The controllable risk factors for breast cancer are diet, nutrition, exercise, and alcohol consumption to name a few.

For years, the role of diet in breast cancer has been argued among the health community. A recent investigation in the etiology of breast cancer risk was published in the journal Cancer. The researchers involved stated that high amounts of dietary fats are associated with mortality due to breast carcinoma. Inversely correlated, are diets that include fish and exposure to UV-B rays, which are a resource of vitamin D. From over 35 countries, the researchers used mortality rates due to breast cancer, dietary supply data, and latitude as their methods of measurement. For 80% of the mortality cases, the variance was explained by the risks of intake of animal fats and alcohol. The risk reductions included ingestion of vegetable products and fish. Concluding, the authors hypothesized that risk associated with animal fats may be due to the greater amounts of insulin-like growth factor and estrogen, and alcohol because of the effect they have on the body's supply of estrogen. Also, vegetable products contain phytoestrogens and antioxidants, which attribute to the risk reduction in breast cancer, as well as the amounts of omega-3 oils and vitamin D in fish. Although future cohort studies were suggested, the results were consistent to other studies previously completed.1


1. Grant WB. An ecologic study of dietary and solar ultraviolet-B links to breast carcinoma mortality rates. Cancer. Jan 2002;94(1):272-281.