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Dietitians Dish: October breast cancer awareness month

Oct. 4, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.
Updated Oct. 5, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.


By Erika Wolstein-Melamed

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

According to The National Cancer Institute, 209,000 women have been diagnosed so far this year with breast cancer and 39,000 have died from it.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and has even been diagnosed in men.

People always ask, "Why me? What did I do wrong?" Until now, there is no specific answer. It is hard to determine the cause, but we do know that genetics, menopause and contraceptives can play a role in the disease development.

The cure rate for breast cancer depends on the stage of the disease at the moment it was diagnosed, and the physical well-being of the person diagnosed.

Is there any way to prevent it? Having a healthy lifestyle and reducing the consumption of dietary fat has been shown to reduce the chance of breast cancer.

There is an association between obesity (particularly post-menopausal woman) and disease risk for breast cancer. Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater.

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased to more than 30 percent of the population.

As we know, bad-eating habits, such as eating too much junk food, including excess fried food and an inactive lifestyle, will increase this trend. It has been shown that obesity leads to a larger exposure to estrogen, and it is well established that the amount of estrogen in the body and the length of lifetime exposure to estrogen is linked to breast cancer risk.

What can women do now? Obesity is one of few breast cancer risk factors that a person can influence by having an active lifestyle and including good sources of nutrients, such as whole grains and cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish and low-fat dairy.

Also, the reduction in the consumption of dietary fat in post-menopausal women has been shown to reduce the chances for breast cancer recurrence, according to the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study. Healthy sources of fat are olive oil, fish oil, canola and nuts.

Remember, preventing breast cancer includes different aspects such as a regular yearly mammogram after the age of 40, monthly self-breast exam, once or twice a year clinical breast exam, limiting fat intake, weight loss, adequate physical exercise, smoking cessation and limiting alcohol intake.

Erika Wolstein-Melamed is a dietetic intern through Texas A&M University - Kingsville.

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