‘Healthy Lifestyle’ Can Help Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths in Israel by 2% Annually

The God of your father who helps you, and Shaddai who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that couches below, Blessings of the breast and womb.
Genesis 49:25

In the tug of war between breast cancer and Israeli women (and, in rare cases, men), the malignant disease is beginning to lose. There has been a welcome, annual decrease of two percent of in the rate of deaths from breast cancer, according to the Israel Cancer Association (ICA), and in the last decade, the morality rates have declined by 25%. 

While Israel ranks 26th in the number of new diagnoses of breast cancer per year, it is only 64th in terms of mortality rates, which is evidence of early diagnosis and effective, up-to-date treatment, the ICA said. 

The statistics were announced to mark the opening of International Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which will continue through all of October. 

Today, there are 23,969 Israeli women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and who have recovered or are still coping with the disease. Fully 64% of new patients were diagnosed with the early-stage disease in 2016 compared to 58% in 2005. A total of 78% of new patients are over the age of 50. Five-year survival rates are relatively high (14th place above the OECD average) among women diagnosed in the period 2007 to 2011 – 89% among Jewish women and 84% among Arabs. In 2016, 1,038 Israeli women died of breast cancer.

ICA deputy chairman Miri Ziv said: “We are aware of the immense importance of early breast cancer detection. Israel is among the leading countries in cure rates, thanks to the increase in early detection, as well as rising awareness of the disease and improving treatment options. It is important that women take responsibility for their health and adopt a healthful lifestyle that has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce the risk of contracting the cancer.” 

Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker, director of the Center for Disease Control at the Health Ministry, added: “In 2016, breast cancer accounted for about one-third of all cancers in women. A total of 4,792 new patients with invasive breast cancer were diagnosed this year, of which 4,029 were Jewish (84%), 490 were Arab (10%) and 273 were “other” (6%).

Early detection through a screening program of mammograms has been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality and to positively change the course of the disease. The ICA established the program in the early 1990s, and it has been carried out by the four public health funds and supervised by the Health Ministry on the basis of evidence from clinical research and professional guidelines. The program includes women aged 50 to 74 who have an average risk of cancer and go for a mammogram once every two years. Women who are at higher risk because of a family or personal history of the disease are advised to go for a scan from age 40. Women with the BRCA gene that significantly increases the danger should have an annual mammogram. 

One percent of breast cancer cases are men; about 50 Israeli men are diagnosed each year. The cause of breast cancer in men is still unclear, but some seem to have a higher than average risk of getting the disease.

About one-third of all breast cancer cases are preventable through the adoption of a healthful and active lifestyle. Research has shown that there is a link between physical activity and the risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. Smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and alcohol consumption have been shown to increase the danger of breast cancer risk and thus should be avoided. 

It has been scientifically proven that breastfeeding one’s babies reduces the risk of the mother getting breast cancer and is most beneficial for the infant. 

Prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), not including vaginal estrogen, among menopausal women can increase the risk of breast cancer, according to a new study at Oxford University in England and published in The Lancet last August. 

Until now, there has been no consistent data on this connection. But the meta-analysis of 58 epidemiological studies from 1992 to 2018 that included 143,887 postmenopausal women (with a median age 65) who had invasive breast cancer and 424,972 healthy women who used control cases demonstrated a connection.  Of the women who became ill, 71,217 had taken HRT. In summation, the study shows that long-term use of alternative hormone therapy in menopausal women, especially one containing progesterone, increases the risk of breast cancer

Researchers from Yale University and other universities in the US and China have looked into whether soy consumption and its products, as well as exercise and maintaining normal weight, can reduce the risk of bone fractures among women who recovered from breast cancer. 

Compared to low or non-consumption of soy products (which include tofu, soy milk, and soybeans), daily or regular consumption of soy and its products was associated with a 77% reduction in the development of bone fractures in premenopausal women, compared to women who did not regularly consume soybeans.