Breast cancer prevention starts at age 2

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 7:59 PM | by mitch

By Tanya Shelburne, Vice-President of Program Development

Surely, that must be a typo! Everyone knows 40 is the age when most women should start getting regular mammograms.

Mammograms have played an important role in the breast cancer movement, but it is important to keep in mind that mammograms provide early detection of the disease…not prevention.  While some breast cancers occur due to factors beyond our control, recent studies indicate that up to 68% of breast cancers could be avoided if prevention efforts begin as early as two years-old (see chart above).

In an interview with Dr. Graham A. Colditz, winner of the 2014 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Prevention Research,   he said, “There is clear and growing evidence that diet composition in childhood and adolescence, physical activity, and alcohol intake before birth of the first child are all importantly related to the risk for premalignant breast lesions and invasive breast cancer.” He added, “How we structure diet, level of activity, and alcohol intake in childhood and adolescence, and typically up to age 30, establishes a woman’s lifetime risk for breast cancer.”

So what can we do to start breast cancer prevention early in life?  Parents, doctors, childcare providers, and schools should work together to support healthy lifestyles.  Encourage and support breast-feeding.  Provide plenty of opportunities for physical activity. Model healthy habits yourself. Educate adolescents about avoiding alcohol and tobacco products.

Regardless of your current age or health status, there are benefits to adopting a healthier lifestyle, so don’t delay, start today!