Sunday, September 6, 2009

Healthy Habits Preventing Breast Cancer?

Last Tuesday, a study was published stating that almost 40% of breast cancer cases could be prevented by good health habits. When I was diagnosed, I weighed roughly the same as I had 30 years ago, had been lifting weights since 1980, and had been avoiding alcohol, as I knew that drinking alcohol increased my risk. I also ate healthy foods, limited my red meat intake, drank water instead of soda, and ate a low-fat diet: for example, my daily lunch consisted of carrots, yogurt, and fruit.

Studies like this can mislead women into a false sense of wellbeing- as most breast cancer cases clearly can't be prevented by the behaviors they describe. I hoped that avoiding alcohol would lower my risk, but I never believed that doing this would prevent me from getting breast cancer: all you can do is practice a healthy lifestyle, and hope for the best.
The majority, or 60% of breast cancer cases, are not influenced by someone's health habits, but it is still a good idea to practice healthy behaviors. I was thin when I was diagnosed, and gained weight during treatment; so, I'm happy that I didn't weigh 20 or 30 pounds more at the time of my diagnosis, or, I would be faced with losing even more now as I attempt to reach my precancer body weight.

Preventing breast cancer, unfortunately, isn't as simple as the study makes it seem. I would hate for other women to think that a healthy lifestyle will spare you: mine certainly did not spare me. Be healthy, yes; but most importantly, get screened on a regular basis; this is the health practice which could, and will, actually save your life.


  1. I appreciated your comment on the New York Times Well Blog about cancer and strength. Your post here is a great one. Battling the cancer, food, and prevention puzzle is one that fries my brain. I was a vegan dancer when I was diagnosed at age 27. Where do you improve on a healthy diet when that is your starting point?

    All my best,

    Kairol Rosenthal

  2. Kairol,

    Thanks so much for the kind words about my writing.

    We know that a healthy lifestyle won't give us immunity from cancer, yet it seems that an unhealthy lifestyle increases the risk of certain types of cancer. And, preventing cancer's return has been linked with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so I'll continue to do what I'm doing. I will definitely check out your website as soon as I finish writing this!