Get answers to your Breast Surgery questions.
Regular exercise, particularly vigorous exercise, may offer some modest protection against breast cancer. Exercise can help reduce body fat, which in turn lowers levels of cancer-promoting hormones such as estrogen. The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45 - 60 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week.
Exercise can also help women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and may help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Studies indicate that both aerobic and weight training exercises benefit the body and the mind, and improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors.
Despite much research on the association between diet and breast cancer, there is still little consensus. The best advice is to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid focusing on one "cancer-fighting" food. The American Cancer Society‚ ' s dietary guidelines for cancer prevention recommend that people:
For breast cancer survivors, the American Cancer Society recommends diets that include lots of fruits and vegetables, low amounts of saturated fat (from meat and high-fat dairy products), moderation in soy foods, and moderate or no alcohol consumption.
Here are results from recent studies evaluating diet and breast cancer, for preventing both the development of cancer and its recurrence:
Fats. Research is still mixed on the role that fats, and which specific types of fats, play in breast cancer risk and prevention. Several studies have indicated that red meat, which is high in saturated fat, may increase breast cancer risk when eaten in large quantities on a daily basis. (Red meat is also high in iron, which in itself may increase breast cancer risk.) According to results from the Women‚ ' s Health Initiative study of dietary fat and breast cancer, there is no definite evidence that a low-fat diet will help prevent breast cancer. However, the study suggested that women who normally eat a very high-fat diet may benefit by reducing their fat intake. In the study, the low-fat diet reduced blood estrogen levels by 15%. The low-fat diet also appeared to reduce the risk for developing progesterone receptor-negative tumors.
Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are important sources of antioxidants, which may help protect against the tissue damage linked to increased cancer risk. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lycopene. Richly colored fruits and vegetables -- not supplements -- are the best sources for these nutrients. These fiber-rich foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. However, it is not clear whether fruits and vegetables can specifically prevent breast cancer development or recurrence.
Calcium and Vitamin D. Eating lots of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D (such as yogurt and milk) may modestly reduce the risk of breast cancer for premenopausal women. Low-fat or non-fat dairy products are a healthier choice than high-fat ones.
Soy. Soy is an excellent low-fat protein alternative to meat. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like plant chemicals. In particular, soy contains a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones. Because many soy foods (such as tofu) are eaten in Asian countries where women tend to have a lower incidence of breast cancer, research has focused on whether soy may have a protective effect. To date, the evidence does not indicate that soy foods or supplements can reduce breast cancer risk. In addition, some studies suggest that high intakes of soy may actually increase the risk of estrogen-responsive cancers such as breast cancer. Some animal studies have suggested that the isoflavone compound genistein may reduce the protective properties of tamoxifen, a drug used to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women. The American Cancer Society recommends that women with breast cancer eat only moderate amounts of soy foods and avoid taking dietary supplements that contain high amounts of isoflavones.
Lifestyle Factors. Premenopausal women at higher risk, usually because of family history, should take as many preventive measures as possible, starting at an early age. The following lifestyle choices may be beneficial:
Tamoxifen and Raloxifene. Drugs known as selective estrogen-receptor modulators (SERMs) act like estrogen in some tissues but behave like estrogen blockers (anti-estrogens) in others. Two SERMs -- tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and raloxifene (Evista) -- are approved for breast cancer prevention for high-risk women. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are not recommended as prevention for women at low risk for breast cancer or its recurrence. Women at high risk for breast cancer should discuss with their doctors the risks and benefits of SERMs.
Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is the most studied of these drugs. It is currently used to treat breast cancer and was the first drug approved for prevention. Evidence strongly suggests that it halves the risk for estrogen receptor-positive cancers in high-risk women, including those with BRCA2 mutations (although possibly not BRCA1). It also helps prevent recurrence in women who have been treated for breast cancers. However, it has no protective effects against estrogen receptor-negative (hormone-insensitive) cancers.
Tamoxifen can increase the risk for uterine (endometrial) cancers. It can also increase the risk for blood clots, strokes, and endometriosis. Less serious side effects include hot flashes and vaginal discharge.
Raloxifene (Evista) was approved in 2007 for prevention of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis and postmenopausal women at high risk for invasive breast cancer. Raloxifene was previously approved for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Studies indicate that it works as well as tamoxifen in reducing the risk of invasive breast cancer
One of raloxifene‚ ' s main benefits is that it has a lower risk than tamoxifen of causing uterine cancer and blood clots. However, women with a history of blood clots in the legs, lungs, or eyes should not take raloxifene. Although studies indicate raloxifene does not increase the risk of stroke, it can increase the risk of dying from a stroke. Women with a history of or current risk factors for stroke or heart disease should discuss with their doctors whether raloxifene is an appropriate choice.
Less serious side effects of raloxifene include hot flashes, leg cramps, swelling of the legs and feet, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and sweating. Raloxifene can cause birth defects and is approved only for postmenopausal women. It should not be taken with the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine (Questran) or with estrogens.
Investigational Drugs for Breast Cancer Prevention.Aromatase inhibitors such as anastrazole (Armidex), letrozole (Femara), and exemestane (Aromasin) are effective treatments for postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. Like tamoxifen, these drugs are also being investigated for protection in high-risk women. However, aromatase inhibitors may decrease bone mineral density and cognitive function, and increase the risk for falls.
Berg WA, Blume JD, Cormack JB, Mendelson EB, Lehrer D, B√∂hm-V√©lez M, et al. Combined screening with ultrasound and mammography vs mammography alone in women at elevated risk of breast cancer. JAMA. 2008 May 14;299(18):2151-63.
Boyd NF, Guo H, Martin LJ, Sun L, Stone J, Fishell E, et al. Mammographic density and the risk and detection of breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2007 Jan 18;356(3):227-36.
Casey PM, Cerhan JR and Pruthi S. Oral contraceptive use and risk of breast cancer. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008;83(1): 86-90.
Chia SK, Speers CH, D'Yachkova Y, Kang A, Malfair-Taylor S, Barnett J, et al. The impact of new chemotherapeutic and hormone agents on survival in a population-based cohort of women with metastatic breast cancer. Cancer. 2007 Jul 23;110(5):973-979 [Epub ahead of print]
Coombes RC, Kilburn LS, Snowdon CF, Paridaens R, Coleman RE, Jones SE, et al. Survival and safety of exemestane versus tamoxifen after 2-3 years' tamoxifen treatment (Intergroup Exemestane Study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2007 Feb 17;369(9561):559-70.
Ferguson T, Wilcken N, Vagg R, Ghersi D and Nowak AK. Taxanes for adjuvant treatment of early breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(4): CD004421.
Geiger AM, Thwin SS, Lash TL, Buist DS, Prout MN, Wei F, et al. Recurrences and second primary breast cancers in older women with initial early-stage disease. Cancer. 2007 Mar 1;109(5):966-74.
Harris L, Fritsche H, Mennel R, Norton L, Ravdin P, Taube S, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology 2007 update of recommendations for the use of tumor markers in breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2007 Nov 20;25(33):5287-312.
Hayes DF. Clinical practice. Follow-up of patients with early breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(24): 2505-13.
Hudis CA. Trastuzumab--mechanism of action and use in clinical practice. N Engl J Med. 2007; 357(1): 39-51.
Ives A, Saunders C, Bulsara M, Semmens J. Pregnancy after breast cancer: population based study. BMJ. 2007 Jan 27;334(7586):194. Epub 2006 Dec 8.
Jatoi I, Chen BE, Anderson WF, Rosenberg PS. Breast cancer mortality trends in the United States according to estrogen receptor status and age at diagnosis. J Clin Oncol. 2007 May 1;25(13):1683-90. Epub 2007 Apr 2.
Kerlikowske K, Miglioretti DL, Buist DS, Walker R, Carney PA; National Cancer Institute-Sponsored Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Declines in invasive breast cancer and use of postmenopausal hormone therapy in a screening mammography population. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007 Sep 5;99(17):1335-9. Epub 2007 Aug 14.
Khatcheressian JL, Wolff AC, Smith TJ, Grunfeld E, Muss HB, Vogel VG, et al.American Society of Clinical Oncology 2006 update of the breast cancer follow-up and management guidelines in the adjuvant setting. J Clin Oncol. 2006 Nov 1;24(31):5091-7. Epub 2006 Oct 10.
Lehman CD, Gatsonis C, Kuhl CK, Hendrick RE, Pisano ED, Hanna L, et al. MRI evaluation of the contralateral breast in women with recently diagnosed breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 29;356(13):1295-303. Epub 2007 Mar 28.
Lohrisch C, Paltiel C, Gelmon K, Speers C, Taylor S, Barnett J, et al. Impact on survival of time from definitive surgery to initiation of adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2006 Oct 20;24(30):4888-94. Epub 2006 Oct 2.
Marchionni L, Wilson RF, Wolff AC, Marinopoulos S, Parmigiani G, Bass EB, et al.. Systematic review: gene expression profiling assays in early-stage breast cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(5): 358-69.
Michels KB, Xue F, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Induced and spontaneous abortion and incidence of breast cancer among young women: a prospective cohort study. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Apr 23;167(8):814-20.
Moss SM, Cuckle H, Evans A, Johns L, Waller M, Bobrow L. Effect of mammographic screening from age 40 years on breast cancer mortality at 10 years' follow-up: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2006 Dec 9;368(9552):2053-60.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Breast Cancer. v.2.2008.
North American Menopause Society. Estrogen and progestogen use in peri- and postmenopausal women: March 2007 position statement of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2007 Mar-Apr;14(2):168-82.
Pierce JP, Natarajan L, Caan BJ, Parker BA, Greenberg ER, Flatt SW, et al. Influence of a diet very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat on prognosis following treatment for breast cancer: the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) randomized trial. JAMA. 2007 Jul 18;298(3):289-98.
Punglia RS, Morrow M, Winer EP and Harris JR. Local therapy and survival in breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(23): 2399-405.
Qaseem A, Snow V, Sherif K, Aronson M, Weiss KB, Owens DK; Clinical Efficacy Assessment Subcommittee of the American College of Physicians. Screening mammography for women 40 to 49 years of age: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Apr 3;146(7):511-5.
Ravdin PM, Cronin KA, Howlader N, Berg CD, Chlebowski RT, Feuer EJ, et al. The decrease in breast-cancer incidence in 2003 in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2007 Apr 19;356(16):1670-4.
Reeves GK, Pirie K, Beral V, Green J, Spencer E, Bull D; Million Women StudyCollaboration. Cancer incidence and mortality in relation to body mass index in the Million Women Study: cohort study. BMJ. 2007 Dec 1;335(7630):1134. Epub 2007 Nov 6.
Robson M and Offit K. Clinical practice. Management of an inherited predisposition to breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(2): 154-62.
Saslow D, Boetes C, Burke W, Harms S, Leach MO, Lehman CD, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines for breast screening with MRI as an adjunct to mammography. CA Cancer J Clin. 2007 Mar-Apr;57(2):75-89.
Terry KL, Willett WC, Rich-Edwards JW, Michels KB. A prospective study of infertility due to ovulatory disorders, ovulation induction, and incidence of breast cancer. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Dec 11-25;166(22):2484-9.
Turner NC and Jones AL (2008). Management of breast cancer--part I. BMJ. 2008;337: a421.
Turner NC and Jones AL. Management of breast cancer--Part II. BMJ. 2008;337: a540.
Wolff AC, Hammond ME, Schwartz JN, Hagerty KL, Allred DC, Cote RJ, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology/College of American Pathologists guideline recommendations for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 testing in breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2007 Jan 1;25(1):118-45. Epub 2006 Dec 11.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885