Legacy in the News: Beating cancer before it starts: Legacy Cancer Institute’s prescription for healthy living

The Sunday Oregonian, Front Page of Metro Section

April 14, 2013

A cancer diagnosis isn't destiny.

That is to say, it's usually not genetically predetermined. More often, something about our lives – or our environment – triggers the cancer.

That's true for cancer in general and that's especially so with breast cancer, according to Legacy Cancer Institute surgical oncologist Jennifer Garreau, who says just 10 percent of breast cancers are inherited.

So on Saturday, about 170 people gathered at a free Legacy workshop at the World Forestry Center to hear Garreau's prescription for trying to avoid breast cancer.

"Raising awareness to those problems and figuring out what is safe is really important, Garreau said.

The science of cancer's causes and treatments continues to evolve. Garreau drew on current research, acknowledging that there are still many unknowns.

Saturday's session, paired with a lesson on healthy cooking, highlighted cancer risk factors in everyday life: pesticides, alcohol, radon gas and obesity, among others.

The American lifestyle and environment appear to be part of the problem, Garreau said. Women who move to the U.S from countries with low breast cancer risk increase their own risk by 80 percent. Fairly simple steps can significantly reduce cancer risk, she said. Exercise and careful diets can make a big difference.

And prevention efforts shouldn't stop, she said, even as women grow older. Garreau said doctors once recommended that elderly patients stop having mammograms. Past a certain age, they reckoned, life expectancies weren't long enough to justify aggressive cancer treatment.

Now, though, doctors say women in reasonable health should continue to come in for tests as they age.

"If you can walk to get your mammogram," Garreau said, "you should still get it every year."

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