WEST LAFAYETTE — From before birth to puberty is a critical window for breast cancer prevention and a time when diet and exercise could have a significant positive impact, according to an international group of experts.
“Windows of opportunity for positively impacting the genes that control breast health are very important in terms of preventing breast cancer,” said Sophie Lelièvre, co-chair of the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition Project and associate professor of basic medical sciences at Purdue University. “From fetal life to puberty is a very sensitive time for these genes and a time when introducing positive and protective environmental factors like limiting fatty and sugary foods and regularly exercising should be emphasized.”
The recommendations came from a think tank of 25 leaders in the field from eight countries who met Oct. 9-12 in Saumur, France. The think tank was co-organized by Purdue, the French School of Public Health (EHESP) and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and was part of the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition Project. The project task force is preparing a manuscript detailing its recommendations for prevention and for the future of international primary prevention research.
The group also highlighted the need to measure the psychological aspect of prevention approaches, she said.
“Primary prevention of chronic diseases is a relatively new facet of health care and it involves working with healthy patients with no clinical signs of the disease,” said Lelièvre, who also is the leader of the breast cancer discovery group at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. “As scientists develop new ways to assess and decrease breast cancer risk, it is essential to measure the psychological impact of these procedures.”
Additional research recommendations of the think tank included a need for prevention research to be done in context, for example studying the communication of cells in their natural tissue structure and accounting for the cultural context of population studies; working internationally and including cross-cultural collaboration to benefit all countries; and developing a research hub to easily share information between researchers in different countries, she said.