Why is Prevention Important?
There are more than twice as many new breast cancer cases annually than new cases of cancer in any other site.1 Studies from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have shown that a third of all breast cancer cases can be prevented in Europe by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That would mean that 192,100 of the 576,300 new cases of breast cancer each year in the WHO Europe region could be prevented2
The increasing number of breast cancer cases may be due to changes in lifestyle habits, increase in sedentary lifestyle, weight gain and obesity and sociological changes such as increasing age at first birth and decreasing number of children born to women.1
Primary prevention consists of interventions that can prevent/protect an individual from developing breast cancer. A growing body of evidence shows the link between healthy lifestyle choices and a lower risk of developing breast cancer.2 According to these studies, excess body weight and physical inactivity deserve special attention, since they account for 25-33 percent of all breast cancer cases3. As a result, being active, eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining a normal body weight are three simple but crucial lifestyle choices.
Secondary prevention/early detection
For many years, EUROPA DONNA has been working to ensure that all European women have access to nationwide population-based mammography screening programmes set up according to EU Guidelines. Mammography is widely accepted as the best method to detect breast cancer early, before it becomes palpable. When carried out according to EU Guidelines it is the best form of early detection available today and the scientific evidence shows that it improves mortality rates from the disease. If you are between the ages of 50 and 69, you should receive an invitation for mammography screening every two years as part of a screening programme offered by your public health system. This has been re-confirmed in the new European Breast Guidelines.
After a breast cancer diagnosis, numerous studies have shown that lifestyle factors have an impact on recurrence of breast cancer and outcomes after breast cancer. Therefore, it is important to be physically active, to maintain a normal body weight and eat a healthy diet.
Why ED is advocating for prevention programmes and Breast Health Day (BHD)
Being active, eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining a normal body weight are important lifestyle choices for breast health. As a growing body of evidence shows the link between healthy choices and a lower risk of developing breast cancer, EUROPA DONNA - The European Breast Cancer Coalition established Breast Health Day on 15 October 2008. The programme aims to inform women of all ages that lifestyle factors play an important role in the prevention and recurrence of breast cancer as well as the importance of the role of early detection of breast cancer.
- Stewart BW, Wild CP, editors (2014). World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer
- Ferlay J, Ervik M, Lam F, Colombet M, Mery L, Piñeros M, Znaor A, Soerjomataram I, Bray F (2020). Global Cancer Observatory: Cancer Today. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer. Available from: http://gco.iarc.fr/today [accessed on 24 June 2021]. Statistics for Europe are based on WHO Europe region of 53 countries. Data for Andorra, Monaco and San Marino are not included.
- IARC (2002). IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Volume 6, Weight control and physical activity. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer.