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Adult Lifestyle + Adolescent Diet Dramatically Changes Breast Cancer Risk
With 12% of American women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, researchers find certain lifestyle modifications can reduce risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women by 34%.3
Digging deeper, researchers discovered a shockingly high risk factor seeded decades before a cancer diagnosis: the diets of adolescents and young adults!2
Diet + Breast Cancer
A new study in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal finds a strong link between poor adolescent and early adult diets and breast cancer. A common adolescent diet is low in vegetables and high in sugar-sweetened and diet soft drinks, refined sugars and carbohydrates, red and processed meats, and margarine. This has been linked to high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.
The study followed 45,204 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II, who completed a dietary questionnaire in 1998 (when the women were between 33 and 52). From memory (the biggest weakness in the study), these women recorded the diets they ate in high school and as early adults. The diets of these women were evaluated every four years for the next 22 years.2
Out of the more than 45,000 women who completed the high school food frequency questionnaire, 870 were diagnosed with premenopausal breast cancer, and 490 were diagnosed with postmenopausal breast cancer.2 While these numbers do not seem extraordinarily high, when they plugged in the effect on the women who ate the highest inflammatory (junky food) diet, the results were shocking.
The girls who had the highest inflammatory diet as adolescents saw a 35% increased risk of breast cancer before menopause. The young adult group with the highest inflammatory diet had a 41% increased risk of breast cancer before menopause.2
In another study published in the same journal, researchers found a high-fat diet (also common in adolescents) is linked to greater cancer risk.1
Sadly, it seem the combination of a highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar diet is the perfect storm for increased cancer risk later in life. “A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and red and processed meat makes it more likely that you may experience early onset breast cancer,” said study senior author Karin Michels, chair of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles.2
For adolescents and young adults, when mammary glands are rapidly developing, this study concludes a healthy lifestyle and diet may provide long-term breast health protection. They recommend a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, while avoiding soda and high intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and red and processed meats.2
Healthy Lifestyle Decreases Breast cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Women by 34%
This is not the first study suggesting that a healthy diet may lower risk of breast cancer. In fact, many suggest a healthy, non-processed diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat may decrease breast cancer risk.3
In a comprehensive article on breast cancer risk, one study evaluated suspected breast cancer lifestyle risk factors.3
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Suspected Breast Cancer Lifestyle Risk Factors
- Lack of physical activity
- Alcohol consumption
- Shift work
- Antiperspirants (observational studies)
- Breast implants
- Hormone therapy after menopause
- Unhealthy diet
This study concluded that avoiding these risk factors and replacing them with a healthier lifestyle could reduce risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by up to 34%.
Study Finds Healthy Lifestyle Reduces Breast Cancer Risk Two-fold
In one study, over 17,000 women were followed for nine years and evaluated for a favorable or unfavorable lifestyle. The study concluded that menopausal women who did not use hormone therapy and had an unfavorable lifestyle (compared with women who had a favorable lifestyle) had a twofold higher risk for postmenopausal breast cancer.4
The study further concluded that breast cancer patients with an unfavorable lifestyle, compared with patients with a favorable lifestyle, had almost a two times higher overall mortality risk.4
Keys to a Healthy Ayurveda Lifestyle 101
Here are some Ayurvedic healthy lifestyle basics:
- Go to bed early and wake up early.
- Exercise daily and include yoga, breathing, and meditation.
- Eat whole foods, not processed or sugary meals.
- Eat a plant-based diet and reduce intake of animal protein.
- Drink water as your primary beverage.
- Don’t eat meals late in the evening.
- Eat seasonal organic foods.
- Serve, give, and care for others.
- Eat while calm and relaxed—never while angry.
- Don’t worry—be happy!
What are you doing to protect your breasts?