Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, causing 32% of all newly diagnosed cancers. Woman whose bodies produce the most estrogen are the ones most likely to suffer this disease (1). Any woman who lives 90 years has one chance in 7 of developing breast cancer, but a woman who is 32 has only one chance in 256, so aging is a risk for breast cancer. Women who start menstruating early before age 12 and those who continue menstruating late after age 52 are at increased risk.
Women who have their first pregnancy late in life and those who have never been pregnant are at increased risk because prolactin associated with milk production inhibits estrogen. Breast cancer is also associated with insulin resistance which raises estrogen levels. Insulin resistance is associated with storing fat primarily in the belly, eating meat, having a large weight gain after age 30, not eating enough fiber, and having high blood insulin levels (2). Protection against breast cancer is associated with having ovaries removed, having first child before age 25, and having lots of children (3). A woman can reduce her chances of developing breast cancer by getting pregnant before age 20, having lots of children, eating a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat, based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans and low in meat and refined carbohydrates in bakery products and avoiding overweight.
1) JL Kelsey, L Bernstein. Epidemiology and prevention of breast cancer. Annual Review of Public Health 17 (1996):47-67.
2) Stoll BA Nutrition and breast cancer risk: Can an effect via insulin resistance be demonstrated? Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 38: 3(1996):239-246.
3) M Lambe, CC Hsieh, HW Chan, A Ekbom, D Trichopoulos, HO Adami. Parity, age at first and last birth, and risk of breast cancer: A population-based study in Sweden. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 38: 3 (1996):305-311.
TRANS FATTY ACIDS AND BREAST CANCER: Remember the television add in which an actor implies that eating margarine prevents heart attacks? It's just not true. Dr. Lenore Kohlmeier of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1) confirmed many other studies (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12) that show that those who eat the most partially hydrogenated trans fats in margarines and bakery products are the ones most likely to suffer diseases such as breast cancer and heart attacks. Her studies are particularly dependable because she was able to tell the type of fat that people ate by analyzing the fat removed from the buttocks of 700 postmenopausal women. Previous studies used a less dependable dietary history. Fats are classified by their chemical structure. Saturated fats are found primarily in meat, and polyunsaturated fats found primarily in vegetables. Polyunsaturated fats have a very short shelf life, so manufacturers change them to partially hydrogenated fats and use these vegetable oils to make bakery products, margarines and prepared foods. For the last 30 years, breast cancer risk has increased in North American women, probably caused by women restricting their intake of saturated fat in meat and dairy products to avoid heart disease and increasing their intake of the partially hydrogenated oils found in margarines and bakery products
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