What causes breast cancer?

14 Apr 2011 4:59 PM - Stress, diet, lifestyle...

I was interested to hear an interview on the Health Report on Radio National last week which discussed the results of a study into beliefs behind the causes of breast cancer. 

The study asked women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer whether they thought anything might have contributed to or caused their disease.  

Of those who thought there were contributing factors about half listed stress from one or more sources as a factor while only a very small number thought lifestyle factors might have contributed. 

Associate Professor Robyn Bell, one of the study's chief investigators commented that this was interesting because there is very little scientific evidence linking stress with breast cancer.  On the other hand there is strong evidence linking obesity, alcohol consumption and lack of exercise to increased risk. 

As a naturopath, I am quite sure that being above your healthy weight, being inactive and having an unhealthy diet are contributing factors to many illnesses and diseases, not just breast cancer.  However, given the number of clients I see who are stressed (for whatever reason) and the impact that stress has on many aspects of their life and health, I suspect stress will play a role in the development of breast cancer.  There may not be proven scientific evidence for this yet but I think it is only a matter of time. (As a cancer survivor, I reckon stress played a role in my disease). 

The key point is if you want to minimise your risk of developing a serious disease such as breast cancer or one of many other chronic conditions there are many things you can do.  Improve your diet (seek help if you don't know where to start), find an activity that you enjoy and do it regularly, work towards achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, moderate your alcohol intake and find ways to better cope with your stresses.  If you are struggling to do this by yourself, then these are all things that a naturopath can help you with. 

You can read a transcript of the interview here or read more about the study here.

In good health,


Kaye Wright