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Binge drinking linked to breast cancer

A leading surgeon says breast cancer rates could soar unless young women cut back on binge drinking – and that mammograms are being “oversold”.

Dr Trevor Smith said alcohol was among the lifestyle choices that contributed towards New Zealand’s having one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world.

He called on the Government and breast cancer groups to “radically change” the way they tackled the illness by focusing on education rather than treatment.

“Almost all funds are channelled into screening, treatment and the search for a cure, instead of educating the public that prevention is your best protection. It’s astonishing.”

Smith said alcohol had been proven to be carcinogenic and the risk of breast and other cancers increased with the amount consumed.

“One glass of wine a day increases your breast cancer risk by 10 per cent. And I’m talking a small glass – 100ml. Imagine what binge drinking is doing to [young women’s] risk; it’s massive.”

About 2500 Kiwis are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Smith, who didn’t mind being “a bit of a maverick” on the issue, has detailed his thoughts in a new book, Breast Care.

He told the Herald on Sunday he was critical of the Ministry of Health because it concentrated on reacting to breast cancer, rather than empowering women and the 1 per cent of men it affects, with knowledge.

Smith also said it was a “cop-out” that many in the industry took money for mammograms without also giving women information on other ways to reduce the risk.

Mammograms failed to detect 15 per cent of cancerous lumps, he said.

Smith said World Cancer Research Fund findings released last November revealed a staggering 30-40 per cent of all cancers could be “avoided” by lifestyle changes.

He also recommended women had children before their 30th birthday and breastfed for as long as possible.

Breast Cancer Foundation medical committee chairwoman Dr Belinda Scott said she believed “enough was being done” in the fight to prevent breast cancer.

Associate Health Minister Steve Chadwick said the Government had made heavy investment in prevention and screening programmes.

The Cancer Control Strategy included significant prevention activities to reduce the incidence of all cancers and addressed proven risk factors.

Smith’s findings were presented to the Breast Cancer Network’s meeting in May and will be in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday.
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source: NZ Herald

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