Along with regular checkup, healthy lifestyle emphasized to help prevent breast cancer

October 18, 2013
A woman gets breast ultrasound. Along with regular checkup, doctors stress healthy lifestyle for prevention of breast cancer. / Courtesy of Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women

A woman receives a breast ultrasound. Along with regular checkup, doctors stress a healthy lifestyle for the prevention of breast cancer.
(Courtesy of Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women)

By Yoon Ja-young

U.S. actress Angelina Jolie made international headlines in February after she underwent a double mastectomy to prevent hereditary breast cancer. There was much interest in this in Korea because the incidence of breast cancer is increasing, and because of concern over hereditary breast cancer.

However, this represents only around 7 percent of all breast cancers here, and having the gene doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop cancer. Prof. Moon Byung-in at Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women said that it is better to change your lifestyle instead of worrying about your genes in order to prevent cancer.

So far, there are two genes — BRCA 1 and BRCA2 — that are known to be related to this form of cancer. These fight cancer cells when they are normal, but when there are mutations, they increase the probability of the disease. These people have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, too.

Familial cancer refers to having two or more breast cancer patients within a family. As members of the same family share lifestyle and environment, cancer can run between generations. Such familial breast cancer constitutes between 15 to 20 percent of patients.

“Most breast cancers are not hereditary but coincidental and affected by habits,” Prof. Moon said. “Even if you have the genes, you can’t conclude that all cancers are hereditary. You should care more about unhealthy lifestyles than the genes,” he added.

The following are five good lifestyle tips to help prevent breast cancer suggested by Prof. Moon.

-Eat beans

Isoflavones in the beans control estrogen levels that can trigger breast cancer, thus helping prevention. According to research at Soochow University in China, those who consume soy food had 0.75 times less risk of breast cancer than those who did not.

“U.S. research, which compared girls who consumed fermented soy products from the age of five and those who didn’t, showed that there was around a 50 percent gap in the breast cancer risk,” he said.

-Maintain appropriate weight.

Obesity, which is known as the source of all diseases, should be avoided. Those who have body mass index (BMI), or weight divided by height squared, at 25 or higher, are categorized as obese.

The professor points out that research has shown obesity raises the risk of breast cancer. Obesity increases certain hormones in the body that will help cancer cells grow and survive.

-Take 300 minutes’ exercise a week

Exercise not only boosts physical strength but also prevents breast cancer by reducing the work of female hormones. The professor cites research in which over 300 minutes of exercise per week decreased estrogen levels by 18.9 percent and progesterone by 23.7 percent. Additional research also reported that 30 minutes’ exercise, done three times or more a week, halves the risk of breast cancer in menopausal females. “Instead of doing special exercises, it is better to choose easy forms such as fast walking or cycling and continue to do it. The intensity should be like being out of breath but able to have a conversation and having some sweat on your back,” the professor said.

-Have colorful vegetables, fruits

Obesity increases the recurrence of breast cancer as well. One should control weight through exercise and diet.

High fat diets should be avoided, but it isn’t good to totally block meat. Choose lean cuts of meat, and as for cooking, steaming or boiling are recommended. Use olive oil or other vegetable oils for cooking.

Alcohol should be avoided because it affects not only breast but also other forms of cancer. The ethanol in alcohol promotes the secretion of estrogen, thus increasing the possibility of a recurrence of breast cancer.

-Get relaxation and rest.

In Korea, women in their 40s are the most vulnerable to breast cancer. They undergo hormonal changes but the stress they get at work and home also increases the risk. A person should be capable of managing their own stress, with the help of others if necessary.

“As there is good food and bad food, there is also good stress that makes your life better and bad stress that cause anxiety and depression. It is important to have good stress, and positive thinking,” the doctor said.

Prof. Moon Byung-in at Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women provided the information for this article.

One Comment

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