BLOG: We need to talk more about prevention
Published 15 Sep 2016
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. On current trends, this statistic is going to get worse.
Through my work as an MP, and my role as a Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Breast Cancer, I am aware of the great strides that have been made in recent years in diagnosing breast cancer earlier, and in devising new treatments to help combat the disease.
It is important that we keep pushing for improvements in these areas. But the one area where things have become worse, not better in recent decades, is in breast cancer prevention.
The number of cases of breast cancer in England has risen by 10% since 2010 and more than doubled in one generation alone. This is not just because we are all, on average, living longer: we have seen a 6.2% increase in age standardised incidence rates for female breast cancer (between 2009 and 2014).(1)
It is important that we continue work on genetics, as around 20 – 30% of all breast cancers are down to genetics.(2) However, as Breast Cancer UK’s prevention focus demonstrates - there are measures that can be taken to help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
We know that regular exercise, reducing alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy bodyweight can reduce the risk of breast cancer by around 30%.
There is also evidence to suggest that our environment can also affect our risk: regular exposure to certain chemicals through pollution, household products and pesticides may also account for some of the 40% of breast cancers not associated with our lifestyle or our genes.(3)
Preventing breast cancer needs to be more prominent in our discussions about how we tackle this disease. That is one reason why the APPG on Breast Cancer held a debate on breast cancer prevention earlier this year and why I support further debate on this issue in the House of Commons. Just as we have seen women diagnosed sooner and surviving longer, we need to see less women getting the disease each year.
A part of the problem is that not enough people, including some policy makers, are aware of the changes we can make to reduce breast cancer risk. Changes that can prevent at least some women from having to face this terrible disease.
That is why I am supporting BCUK’s breast cancer prevention week: the more people we can get talking about how we can prevent breast cancer, and taking action, the better.
You can find out more about Sharon Hodgson's work by visiting her website or following her on social media, details below:
Catch up on the complete series of Prevention Week guest blogs on our News & Blog page
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(2) Economopoulou et al. (2015). Beyond BRCA: New hereditary breast cancer susceptibility genes. Cancer Treatment Reviews 41: 1-8
(3) President’s Cancer Panel (2008-2009) Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, What We Can Do Now http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf