Bad habits raise risk of breast cancer

By Abby Gillies - APNZ

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Research linking excessive eating and drinking and a sedentary lifestyle to breast cancer in Kiwi women has been welcomed by the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.

Obesity, high alcohol intake, and lack of physical exercise have been found to be the highest risk factors for the disease, which is the most common cancer in New Zealand women, accounting for 28 per cent of cases, according to a University of Canterbury study.

Breast cancer is also the second most common cause of death by cancer.

The findings supported previous studies and were "strongly endorsed" by the foundation.

Reducing alcohol intake, having a healthy diet and exercising were very important ways to help reduce the risk of breast cancer, chief executive Evangelia Henderson said.

"This research is great in that it is validating previous research. For all cancers, it's really important that we push these messages."

It was particularly important for women aged over 50 to manage their weight, which became more difficult to lose as people aged: "We can't carry on eating the same way as we used to eat when we were younger."

Other risk factors identified by the university study included taking oral contraception and long-term use of hormone replacement treatment.

Researcher James Hayes' scholarship project was designed to identify changing social and lifestyle factors that could affect the future incidence of breast cancer in New Zealand women.

An evidence-based approach was used, with priority given to statistically significant relative risks reported in associated studies.

In 2008, 2713 New Zealand women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 618 women died.

The earlier the disease is detected the more successful the treatment options are, said Mr Hayes.

"More women are likely to develop the disease due to an increasingly ageing population, but it should be caught earlier through mammography screening."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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