Recently, there has been a lot of attention on the effects of smoking on devloping countries, in particular women. The main reason is that when you look at the statistics, the number of people in developing countries picking up smoking has gone up dramatically, and women in all countries, have also picked up smoking. While I cannot claim to be completely smoke free (I have been known to take a puff or two on occassions), I think it is very important to not smoke due to the known carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoke.
But, another socially acceptable drug, has not garnered as much attention as nicotine, and that is EtOH, also commonly known as alcohol. Make no mistake: alcohol can kill you. It leads to liver cirrhosis in those who drink heavily and liver cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer. Alcohol has also been shown to be strongly associated with the occurance of breast cancer. And its not just heavy drinking that leads to breast cancer, but moderate drinking (aka 1 drink a day) can cause breast cancer.
And its not just alcohol, one’s weight is a major factor that contributes to the development of breast cancer as well. Before menopause, being slightly overweight (the keyword is slightly) can help protect against breast cancer, but after menopause, being overweight can lead to a higher incidence of breast cancer.
Of course, there is the inevitable age. Ageing, by far, is the largest, and single most predictive risk of developing breast cancer. But we all can’t help but age.
Researchers at NIH also recently modified the Gail model to take into consideration the risks of developing tumor-specific types of breast cancer based on different risk factors. This is important because based on lifestyle factors, one can make certain changes to their lifestyle to try to prevent the development of such cancers, especially ER-/PR- tumors which generally tend to be a little more aggressive.
So does this mean if you don’t drink alcohol, and keep your weight in check, you won’t get breast cancer? Of course not. There are no guarantees in life. But think about your various risk factors, and think about the type of life you want to lead, both today and the future. Weigh your risks. Decide for yourself how you want to live.