The Impact of Obesity, Alcohol and Smoking
Many behavioral risk factors, chief among them smoking, heavy drinking, and obesity, are known the main causes of chronic health conditions. The previous studies showed that the chronic health conditions, like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, in turn are primary drivers of health care spending, incapacity, and death.
But a recent study found that survivors of breast cancer have a much higher risk of evolving a second breast cancer than women in the common population have of developing a first breast cancer. Unfortunately, little is known about what lifestyle factors may make survivors more vulnerable to a second cancer.
Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that obesity, alcohol use and smoking, all significantly increase the risk of second breast cancer among breast cancer survivors.
Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D., an associate member of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center, said: “We found that obese women had a 50 percent increased risk, women who consumed at least one alcoholic drink per day had a 90 percent increased risk, and women who were current smokers had a 120 percent increased risk of developing a second breast cancer.”
The research also suggested that current smokers who drink at least seven drinks a week may be at particularly high risk of second breast cancer too.
The results of this recent study give breast cancer survivors three ways to possibly reduce their risk of second cancers. Such favorable ways as following: stay at a normal weight, don’t smoke, and drink in moderation.
Both obesity and alcohol use are associated with increased levels of circulating estrogen, and this is thought to be the primary means through which they give an increased risk of breast cancer, since estrogen can fuel breast cancer growth. The link between smoking and breast cancer may be characterized to carcinogens in tobacco smoke.
For the study, Li and colleagues estimated body mass index, alcohol use and smoking status in 365 women who were diagnosed with both a first and a second breast cancer, and compared them to 726 matched controls diagnosed with only a first breast cancer.
Obesity, alcohol use and smoking data were collected from medical record reviews and participant interviews. The study participants, all from the Seattle region, were first diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 40 and 79.
We know that lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are linked with a number of life-threatening diseases in addition to cancer, and so reducing or eliminating these factors could have the added benefit of reducing a survivor’s risk of developing a second breast cancer, concluded researchers.
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