To Your Health: Healthy living key to breast cancer prevention, research shows

I’ve been talking to the folks at the American Cancer Society a lot lately as part of Breast Cancer Awareness month. During a recent interview, I asked them, “So what’s the latest on breast cancer research?” They directed me to a treasure trove of information at their website.

Here are some highlights.

Take care of yourself to prevent breast cancer

getitgurlThe 32-year long Cancer Prevention Trial gave us some incredibly important insight into what women can do to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer.

Here’s what researchers concluded from the study:

• Walking and losing weight (and keeping it off) helps to prevent breast cancer

• Gaining a lot of weight and smoking significantly increases your risk

• Understanding your genes could help you predict your future breast cancer risk

Work out to reduce your risk 

The American Cancer Society recommends cancer survivors get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, along with at least two strength training sessions.

Also, exercise needs to be thought of as “medicine” according to a study from the Yale Cancer Center.

In women who want to prevent breast cancer from reoccurring, the study found that exercise helps to lower insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and that having a high level of these two things will encourage breast cancer cells.

Finally, hormone therapy, given to women after treatment, can cause pain and some patients will stop their medication because of the pain. Researchers found that exercise can help patients stick with the regimen by helping to reduce pain symptoms.

Research is hunting down ‘instigator’ tumors

Cancer is most dangerous once it spreads from its original location to other parts of your body. Even if you’re in remission and declared “cancer-free,” you have to worry about the cancer coming back with a vengeance.

That’s why scientists are studying how tumors behave. They’re finding that some tumors are real troublemakers because they send out cells that awaken later in another part of the body. Other tumors respond to treatment just fine and are never seen again.

Figuring out how to  identify those “instigators” could prove a breakthrough in how cancers are treated. Hopefully one day, doctors will be able to tailor cancer treatment based on what kind of cancer cells a patient have. If you have an “instigator,” you’ll get a more aggressive treatment.

Scientists are also studying how to stop “responding cells” that react to instigating tumors. This type of research holds promise, and could increase the long-term survival of patients and make treatment more individualized.

Good night breast cancer cells

Scientists have found that stopping a protein called MED1 can essentially put breast cancer cells into a sleep-like state called senescent.

These cells remain asleep until your immune system wipes them out.

Chemotherapy is one way to put cancer cells to sleep and stop them from replicating, but research has shown that half of breast cancers diagnosed are high in this MED1 protein so ongoing research is trying to work on removing MED1. This may lead to less chemotherapy, thereby reducing side effects for patients in treatment.

Want to keep up with what’s new in breast cancer research? Check out the American Cancer Society’s research page.



Denise Lau is a content specialist at HMSA and blogs about mommyhood with her #808moms series. She has her hands full with a precocious, artistic daughter and active son. Her goal is to be healthy and fit while her kids become successful, well-rounded adults. Follow her on Twitter.

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