Around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK. It is estimated that around half of these cases could be prevented. So what does it take to achieve that? Firstly, we need to know much more about the causes of the disease. Secondly, we need to act on information as we learn of its importance.
Our Breast Cancer Now Generations Study was set up in 2004 to help understand the causes of breast cancer. It’s the largest epidemiological study of breast cancer in the world, following more than 113,000 UK women for 40 years. The women taking part give details of their lifestyle, including diet, alcohol intake and even the kind of jobs they do. They also give blood samples to provide information about their genetics.
This study has demonstrated how life events such as age at menopause and lifestyle factors such as weight gain all impact on breast cancer risk. Much of this is reported in lay terms in our Breast Cancer Risk: The Facts booklet. Findings have also informed the debate on issues that we know are of concern to many women, such as whether stress increases a woman’s risk of the disease, and to what extent the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy increases a woman’s risk.
It is results like these that will help us understand why breast cancer continues to rise, while finding ways to identify high-risk women and develop strategies to prevent the disease. In the meantime, every woman can act to reduce their risk by keeping physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and drinking alcohol within the recommended limits. Here’s some assured information about these established links: Alcohol and breast cancer risk, Physical activity and breast cancer risk, Weight and breast cancer risk.
Mary Allison, Director for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now