31 March 2009

1 out of every 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some time during life affecting a total of about 12%. Breast cancer is around 100 times more common among women than men. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. About 3% of all women diagnosed with the disease will lose the battle for their lives. This translates to approximately one out of every 35 of those who develop breast cancer.

A recent study conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute has found that Asian-American women whose diets included large amounts of soy during childhood may have a reduced risk for breast cancer. The analysis included women living in California and Hawaii who were of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino descent.

Historically, breast cancer incidence rates have been four to seven times higher among white women in the U.S. than in women in China or Japan. However, when Asian women migrate to the U.S., their breast cancer risk rises over several generations and reaches that of U.S. white women, suggesting that modifiable factors, rather than genetics, are responsible for the international differences. Environment and/or lifestyle factors involve remain elusive.

The researchers interviews 597 Asian-American women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer as well as with 966 healthy women. The mothers of these were also asked about the childhood soy consumption of their daughters whenever possible. The results showed that the ingestion of high amounts of soy during childhood (once or more weekly) was linked to a 58% decreased risk of breast cancer, while having a high soy consumption during adolescence and adulthood was found to be associated with a 20 to 25% risk reduction. Since the effects of childhood soy intake could not be explained by measures other than Asian lifestyle during childhood or adult life, early soy intake might itself be protective.

Breast cancer protection may be offered by isoflavones (estrogen-like soy compounds) block the action of estrogen and promote the destruction of abnormal cells as well as reduce inflammation in the body.

It is estimated that 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases result from inheriting gene changes, called mutations, from a parent. Family history is another important factor to be considered as 20 to 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family member who has also been diagnosed with the disease. Other factors that increase the risk for the occurrence of breast cancer include the use of alcohol and tobacco as well as obesity and lack of exercise. In addition, the risk for breast cancer increases with age with about 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers developing in women under the age of 45, while about 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers occur in women ages 55 and older.

Although there are no known means of that assure the prevention of breast cancer, the risk for the disease can be diminished by avoiding the use of tobacco, limiting the use of alcohol, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight. Avoiding the use of post-menopausal hormone therapy when it is not necessary may be beneficial and women who choose to breast-feed for several months could also reduce their breast cancer risk.

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