The incidence of breast cancer in the United States began climbing in the early 1970s, and is now the highest ever seen in human history. Nearly 50,000 American women die of the disease every year. In the face of this tragedy, a great deal of attention has been given to genetics, but the presence of the breast cancer gene, called BRCA-1, only accounts for at most 5 percent of breast cancers.
Exercise is very important to breast cancer risk. In fact, women who exercise (walk) for four hours per week lower their risk by 33 percent. And women who exercise more than that lower their risk even further.
But diet, it turns out, is even more important.
What we Know
- Death rate from breast cancer in the United States: 22.4 (per 100,000)
- Death rate from breast cancer in Japan: 6.3 (per 100,000)
- Death rate from breast cancer in China: 4.6 (per 100,000)
- Primary reasons for difference: People in China and Japan eat more fruits and vegetables and less animal products, weigh less, drink less alcohol, and get more exercise than people in the United States.
- Breast cancer rate for women in Italy who eat a lot of animal products compared to women in Italy who don’t: 3 times greater
- Breast cancer rate for women in Uruguay who eat a lot of animal products compared to women in Uruguay who don’t: 4.2 times greater
- Breast cancer rate for affluent Japanese women who eat a lot of animal products compared to poorer Japanese women who rarely or never eat meat: 4.2 times greater
- Impact on breast cancer risk for adult women who are 45 pounds overweight: Double
- American women who are aware that there are any dietary steps they can take to lower their chances of developing breast cancer: 23 percent
- American women with less than high school educations who are aware that there are any dietary steps they can take to lower their risk of developing breast cancer: 3 percent
- American women who believe that mammograms prevent breast cancer: 37 percent
Excerpted from The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Save the World (Conari Press, 2001) by John Robbins