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Articles


Become a foot soldier: enlist now in the fight against breast cancer.
Read on for your marching orders

Brandy D. Colbert

WE WANT YOU! In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we're asking you to help spread the word that behavior modification may reduce the chances of developing the disease later in life. Studies indicate that overweight and obese women have a 50% to 250% greater risk than their thinner counterparts for developing breast cancer once they pass menopause. Who better to get the news out and help others adopt these life-saving modifications than you--an active woman who's already living a healthy lifestyle?

MISSION #1: GET THE TROOPS MOVING

"There is a quickly-growing body of epidemiologic data on the association between exercise and breast cancer," says Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. On average, researchers have found that women who exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity levels three to four hours a week have a 30% to 40% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who are sedentary. As a reader of M & F HERS, you're probably already doing your fair share of exercise, but what about your mother, your sister, your friends from the office?

TACTICAL MANEUVERS: Help inspire your sedentary friends, family and co-workers to get moving. Establish a walking club at work and enlist office mates to join you for a noontime stroll; get relatives into exercise by finding activities like hiking, biking or inline skating that your family can participate in together.

MISSION #2: GIVE MUNCHING ORDERS

"Diet may play a role in increasing one's risk for breast cancer," says Helena Chang, MD, PhD, director of the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center in Los Angeles. Being overweight, along with the use of hormonal replacement therapy, increases the risk for developing breast cancer, says Dr. Chang. "A diet consisting of lower fat and calories" may help reduce the risk. She advocates more studies to clarify the link between lifestyle and breast cancer. In the meantime, women should be getting the clear message about the many health benefits of adopting a sensible diet and engaging in regular exercise.

Currently, definitive evidence about the relationship between a low-fat diet and breast cancer risk may come from the results of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification clinical trial. This trial, which is expected to end in 2005, includes 48,000 postmenopausal women ages 50-79 from diverse geographic, cultural, race and ethnic groups from around the United States. The dietary goal being researched by the WHI is 20% of calories from fat, five servings of fruits or vegetables per day and six servings of grains per day.

TACTICAL MANEUVERS: Give the gift of good taste. Use the "Guilt-free Fiesta" on page 80 of this issue to show fast-food loving friends that good-for-you meals can be delicious, too. You can also invite friends over ahead of time to prepare for a dinner party. That way, you can actually teach them how to prepare great low-fat meals. Then, give them your favorite cookbook for creating healthy meals.

MISSION #3: DROP THE WEIGHT

It's estimated that 25% of breast cancer cases worldwide are due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, according to The International Agency for Research on Cancer. "For women who are already overweight or obese, recommendations for weight loss should include increasing physical activity (working up to 60 minutes per day) and changing their diet to one that is high in nutritious foods," suggests McTiernan.

TACTICAL MANEUVER: If you've successfully completed your first two assignments, your friends and family members should be shedding pounds gradually.

By your example and encouragement, you can improve the health of those you love. You might just be helping save a life.

For information about the latest technologies in breast cancer detection, turn the page and read "Diagnostic Tools Get Sensitive."

FOR MORE INFORMATION

American Breast Cancer Foundation 410-825-9388; www.abcf.org

National Breast Cancer Coalition 202-296-7477; www.natlbcc.org

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 972-855-1600; www.komen.org

RESOURCE

McTiernan, A., "Behavioral Risk Factors in Breast Cancer: Can Risk Be Modified?" The Oncologist 8:326-334, 2003.


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