Risk reduction

Looking beyond early detection

The message that is widely promoted in breast awareness campaigns is that there is little that women can do to prevent breast cancer and that early detection is your best protection.

I believe that in the 21st century we need a new vision. There is increasing evidence that there are many things that we can do to reduce breast cancer risk and at the same time optimise our general health. It need not be an inevitable legacy for our daughters that they will face a 1 in 10 risk of getting breast cancer. To modify this risk we will need to be prepared to make significant lifestyle changes.

One well-known fact is that breast cancer rates vary dramatically in different countries and societies. The rate is highest in developed industrialised nations such as USA (98 per 100000 people) and Australia and New Zealand are not far behind. Countries in Eastern Asia have rates of less than 40 per 100000) Equally interesting is the fact that women who migrate to live in a high risk country pick up the increased risk within a few years. This data would all suggest that the incidence of breast cancer has much to do with environmental and lifestyle factors.

While we have not yet found "the cause" for breast cancer we should be looking much more critically at these factors rather than concentrating all our efforts on finding a wonder drug or magic bullet to cure the disease once it develops. Why is the incidence increasing? Are there things that we can modify in our environment and in our lifestyle that could reduce our risk?


  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol
  • Exercise

TV Interview Trevor Smith talks with Mark Sainsbury on Close up - risk reduction strategies  View TV Interview Aug 2009  http://tvnz.co.nz/close-up/cutting-odds-2926500/video.xhtml

In 2007 The World Cancer Research Fund released new recommendations based on an extensive review of available studies on lifestyle factors and cancer risk.

Visit their site  World Cancer Research Fund for an excellent summary of what changes you can make.

World Cancer Research Fund

Environmental factors - There is suspicion that many of the toxins and pesticides accumulating in our environment may be responsible for increasing cancer rates.While investigations continue it makes sense to reduce the rate at which we are polluting our planet and to take measures to avoid exposure to these chemicals.The Breast Cancer Network in New Zealand initiated a campaign to reduce exposure to environmental and lifestyle risk factors. Read their sensible recommnendations at   Stop cancer where it starts.

We need to recognise the importance of protecting and enhancing our fragile planet. Current trends are not sustainable!

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