Mechanics behind Breast Cancer Prevention - Focus on Obesity, Exercise and Dietary Fat

  • Alegre, Melissa Marie (Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University) ;
  • Knowles, McKay Hovis (Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University) ;
  • Robison, Richard A. (Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University) ;
  • O'Neill, Kim Leslie (Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University)
  • Published : 2013.04.30


Cancer prevention is rapidly emerging as a major strategy to reduce cancer mortality. In the field of breast cancer, significant strides have recently been made in the understanding of underlying preventive mechanisms. Currently, three major strategies have been linked to an increase in breast cancer risk: obesity, lack of physical exercise, and high levels of saturated dietary fat. As a result, prevention strategies for breast cancer are usually centered on these lifestyle factors. Unfortunately, there remains controversy regarding epidemiological studies that seek to determine the benefit of these lifestyle changes. We have identified crucial mechanisms that may help clarify these conflicting studies. For example, recent reports with olive oil have demonstrated that it may influence crucial transcription factors and reduce breast tumor aggressiveness by targeting HER2. Similarly, physical exercise reduces sex hormone levels, which may help protect against breast cancer. Obesity promotes tumor cell growth and cell survival through upregulation of leptin and insulin-like growth factors. This review seeks to discuss these underlying mechanisms, and more behind the three major prevention strategies, as a means of understanding how breast cancer can be prevented.


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