Health Watch -- Breast Cancer Month

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women. How much do you know about it?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Genes appear to play a large role in determining who does and doesn't develop cancer, but doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk. Studies have found that regular, moderate exercise and maintaining an ideal body weight can lower breast cancer risk. Excess body fat may raise estrogen levels, which increases cancer risk. Eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables and avoiding smoking also appear to lower cancer risks. As a bonus, these measures also help lower risks for heart disease, another major health threat for women. Alcohol consumption may raise breast cancer risk slightly, so drink in moderation if you drink at all.

Some women who are at particularly high risk for breast cancer because of family history or personal history with the disease should talk to their doctors about other preventative measures they can take. Dr. Phil Evans, director of the breast imaging program at UT Southwestern, says treatment with the drug tamoxifen has been shown to reduce the chances of developing cancer by up to 45 percent. Other drugs with fewer side effects are currently being studied.

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Oct. 2004

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