The most common cancer in women is cancer of the breast. One in eight women can expect to develop breast cancer by age 90.

The early work on dietary fat causing breast cancer is not conclusive. We know that taking in too many calories and being fat increases risk for breast cancer. There is early evidence that partially hydrogenated fats in prepared foods increases breast cancer risk. We think that phytoestrogens in moderate amounts may help prevent breast cancer, but this is not firmly established. There is also early evidence that a diet high in plants and antioxidants may help prevent breast cancer, but this also is not conclusive.

RISK FACTORS: 1) GENETICS: Breast cancer runs in families 2) NUMBER OF PERIODS: The women with the most periods are the ones most likely to suffer breast cancer: a) those who start menstruating before 12 b) Those who continue menstruating after the average age of menopause of 52. 3) THOSE WHO ARE THE BIGGEST: evidently size is generated by a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 that stimulates tissue to grow; and the odds are different for risk of breast cancer before menopause and after it. a) BREAST CANCER THAT DEVELOPS BEFORE THE MENOPAUSE: being tall. b) BREAST CANCER THAT DEVELOPS AFTER MENOPAUSE: all factors with size: being tall, being fat, storing fat in the belly, and gaining weight after 5the menopause is a high risk factor. 4) ESTROGEN: Most previous studies show that birth control pills do not appear to increase risk for breast cancer, but two recent studies suggest that they may cause a slight increase in risk Postmenopausal estrogen: does increase risk, but only after more than 3 years of taking it. This risk is increased by taking the second female hormone, progesterone.

Recommendation: Don't be overweight. Probably avoid partially hydrogenated fats. Eat phytoestrogens in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds.

Review of anthropometric factors and breast cancer risk. CM Friedenreich. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2001, Vol 10, Iss 1, pp 15-32.Address Friedenreich CM, Alberta Canc Board, Div Epidemiol Prevent & Screening, 1331-29 St NW, Calgary, AB T2N 4N2, CANADA

Reported 4/15/01; checked 9/3/05

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