Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Women, beware! - Cancer expert warns alcohol consumption aids breast cancer growth

Published:Monday | August 26, 2019 | 12:05 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Women who practise heavy alcohol consumption are at risk of developing breast cancer amid a rise in the number of persons being diagnosed, according to a leading United States cancer researcher.

Dr Mark Pegram, who is the first director of the Breast Cancer Oncology Programme at Stanford Women’s Cancer Centre and co-founder of Stanford’s Molecular Therapeutics Programme, said that Western culture is one of the leading causes for the development of cancers, pinning the blame on foods laced with fats, oils, and sodium.

“It is the same in both men and women. We find that cancer development, primarily breast cancers, has a lot do with what is eaten and in what proportions,” Pegram told The Gleaner.

He said that there has been a breast cancer spike worldwide and that it is not unique to see an increase in diagnoses in Jamaica as well but warned that the trend must be curtailed through education.

Pegram’s assessment is instructive as it comes at a time when women have become a lot more open to drinking as a means of passing time.

But Pegram is steadfast in his assessment, arguing that limiting the intake of alcoholic beverages, while having a balanced diet, is key in helping to stave off ‘the big C’.

BALANCED DIET

“Women can be empowered to reduce the risk by having a balanced diet that is low in fat, cholesterol, and in sodium. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and loads of legumes and less fatty meats. The less anyone consumes of alcohol the better.

“So a proper diet is protective. Important to note also that low or no alcohol consumption altogether is ideal for reducing the risk of breast cancer,” Pegram said.

It is estimated that approximately 268,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

He noted that about 2,000 men in the US are being diagnosed with breast cancer per year. Men who develop breast cancer are those who have inherited a gene that predisposes them to the disease called the BRCA Gene Mutation.

Information gleaned from the Jamaica Cancer Society is that there were 974 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2018. Of that number, 413 of the patients subsequently died.

Pegram, who will be guest speaker at the Janette Kaloo Breast Cancer Foundation Symposium in October, has played a major role in developing the drug Herceptin as a treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer, which constitutes about 20 per cent of all cases.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com