Townsend Letter April 2009


Tori Hudson, ND


Breast Cancer


Perhaps our great influence over breast cancer is in the area of prevention, with the effects of sleep, alcohol, exercise, and diet. Several studies are important to report on from this last year on lifestyle issues related to breast-cancer risk and recurrence. In a prospective study of about 24,00 Japanese women, short sleep duration is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Women who slept 6 hours or less per night had a 62% increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who slept 7 hours per night.


Alcohol and breast-cancer risk has been reported on many times, and the conclusion bears repeating: Women who drink one to two alcoholic drinks per day increase their risk by 10% compared with those who drink less than one drink per day. In women who drink three drinks a day, the risk of breast cancer increases by 30%.


Women who exercised by doing at least two to three hours of brisk walking each week in the year before a breast cancer diagnosis are 31 % less likely to die of the disease than women who were sedentary before their diagnosis. Women who increased their physical activity after diagnosis have a 45% lower risk of death, and women who decreased their physical activity after diagnosis have a fourfold greater risk of death. In the Women's Healthy Eating and Living randomized trial (the WHEL study), increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables (to five vegetable servings, 16 oz. of vegetable juice, and 3 fruit servings a day), eating 30 g of fiber per day, and decreasing dietary fat to 15% to 20% had no significant impact on breast cancer progression or recurrence. However, in a specific subgroup, it was found that breast cancer patients who are overweight women and non-exercisers do benefit from increasing their fruits and vegetables.