Healthy lifestyle key to cut breast cancer gene risk

Nilanjan Chatterjee
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New York– Adopting healthy lifestyle can significantly help women with a high risk of developing breast cancer in mitigating the perils involved with genes and family history, new research led by an Indian-origin scientist suggests.

According to researchers, breast cancer remains the most common form of malignancy diagnosed in women in developed countries.

Nilanjan Chatterjee
Nilanjan Chatterjee

The findings showed that a 30-year-old white woman in the US has an 11.3 percent risk, on average, of developing invasive breast cancer by the age of 80.

However, modifying the known risk factors like drinking less alcohol, losing weight and avoiding hormone replacement therapy showed that roughly 30 percent of breast cancer cases are preventable.

“While you can’t change your genes, the study tells us that even people who are at high genetic risk can change their health outlook by making better lifestyle choices such as eating right, exercising and quitting tobacco,” said Nilanjan Chatterjee, professor at the Johns Hopkins University in the US.

“Our results illustrate the potential value of risk stratification to improve breast cancer prevention,” Chatterjee added.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, the team developed a model predicting risk of breast cancer by analysing records on more than 17,000 women with breast cancer and nearly 20,000 women without the disease from the Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium and about 6,000 women participating in the 2010 National Health Interview Study.

Once women understand that their genes do not completely predict their cancer destiny, they will work even harder to make lifestyle changes that can potentially reduce the risk they will develop the deadly disease.

“These findings may help people better understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle at a more individualised level,” Chatterjee said.

The results are currently applicable only to white women because further studies are needed to understand the association of the genetic variants with risk of breast cancer for other ethnic groups, the researchers noted.


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