Dr. Elisa Port

Prevention and early detection are important weapons in the fight against breast cancer. In October 2015, Dr. Elisa Rush Port, MD, FACS—co-director of the Dubin Breast Center of the Tisch Cancer Institute and Chief of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, wrote about the importance of mammograms. Here she addresses the challenges of prevention. Dr. Port is a member of the Medical Advisory Board of Women’s Voices for Change.




Breast Health: Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Both Save Lives


The truth is that all women are at some risk for breast cancer.  All women want to know everything that can be done to prevent breast cancer.  The women I see who have developed breast cancer want me to give them a list of lifestyle factors that will reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.  Other women who may have more risk factors but have not yet developed breast cancer want to know how they can change their lives to prevent breast cancer from occurring.

It is common for women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer to ask, “How did this happen?” They want to know if the extra soy in the vegetarian diet or the hamburgers and red meat they consumed or all that sugar they ate “caused the breast cancer.”  These are the kinds of concerns  that are discussed in my office every day.

There are two lifestyle factors that increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, and increase her risk of it coming back if she has already received a diagnosis. The first is heavy and regular alcohol consumption, defined as more than 1-2 drinks per day. We typically recommend that women consume alcohol in moderation, defined as no more than 4 to 5 drinks per week. The second factor is obesity which is not only a breast cancer problem, but also probably the No. 1 health issue facing America today.  Being overweight, or obese, increases the risk of breast cancer and recurrence for women of all ages.

RELATED: Diagnosing Breast Cancer, The Quest for a ‘Single Bullet’

While being overweight increases the risk of developing breast cancer, the truth is that no single dietary factor has consistently been shown to increase one’s risk for breast cancer; not soy, red meat, sugar, or any other individual dietary element.  So, in general, one can eat anything, in moderation, without worrying that it will increase one’s risk. The flipside to this, of course, is that there is no food that one can cut out of one’s diet with the realistic expectation that it will reduce the risk of getting breast cancer, or having a recurrence.

Appropriate surveillance based on risk factors is important for all women at 40 and beyond.  Early detection of breast cancer is the goal for all women and their physicians, and mammograms beginning at age 40 and yearly after that have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer related mortality. Read More »

Next Page: Ductal Carcinoma-in-situ (DCIS): One Breast Surgeon’s Perspective on the Latest in Research and Treatment

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  • Ricel February 2, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Dr. Elisa Rush Port,

    Thank you so much for this post. I never thought that being obese is also one of the risk factors for breast cancer. Everyone especially women must keep being physically fit and healthy to avoid this risk.

    This article is such a wakeup call for everyone. I find it very insightful. Thanks for sharing!