Could Stress-Related Pandemic Behavior Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer? Breast Surgeon Weighs In

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Playing Pandemic Behavior That Could Be Increasing Your Risk of Breast Cancer | Dr. Kristi Funk
Pandemic Behavior That Could Be Increasing Your Risk of Breast Cancer | Dr. Kristi Funk Aired October 27, 2020

Many of us have picked up new hobbies and routines during the Covid-19 pandemic, but unfortunately, not all of our newfound behavior is great for our health. For example, while stress-baking can definitely be a calming distraction, stress eating baked goods and other sugary foods can become a bigger problem.

"Covid, in my opinion, has become one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer that we've ever seen," says breast cancer surgeon and author of Breasts: The Owner's Manual, Dr. Kristi Funk. "You can't put yourself at the bottom of the list, especially because these are such stressful times. Everyone's anxious, and those very behaviors that science has proven elevate breast cancer risk and death are the ones that stress drives you to unwittingly embrace."

"Covid, in my opinion, has become one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer that we've ever seen," Dr. Funk says. "You can't put yourself at the bottom of the list, especially because these are such stressful times. Everyone's anxious, and those very behaviors that science has proven elevate breast cancer risk and death are the ones that stress drives you to unwittingly embrace."

Here, she breaks down the stress-related habits that could put you more at risk for developing breast cancer.

1. Stress Baking + Stress Eating 

Stress baking in itself isn't necessarily an issue, but Dr. Funk refers to "eating highly caloric, processed foods" and says that "we're making poor nutritional choices, we're gaining weight, we're not exercising, we're more sedentary than ever."

2. Increased Alcohol Consumption 

Many of us are drinking more alcohol during the pandemic, whether it's during Zoom happy hours, socially-distanced celebrations or nights in. 

"People are reaching for extra cocktails and wine to take the edge off pandemic anxiety, and this is not without consequences," Dr. Funk says. Alcohol can act as a carcinogen, according to the doctor. "It impairs the immune system and it elevates estrogen levels. Estrogen fuels 80% of breast cancers," she explains.

"In fact, a drink a day — so we're talking a 12 oz beer, 5 oz of wine [or] 1.5 oz of hard liquor —  increases breast cancer by 10%. Two drinks a day around 30%. And the more you drink, the higher it goes."

So, what can you do? "The American Cancer Society says that if you choose to drink, keep it to no more than one a day for women and two a day for men," according to the breast cancer surgeon.

Another suggestion is to simply trade out that cocktail for a mocktail, Dr. Funk says. Watch the video above to see how she makes one of her favorite mocktail recipes, a Cucumber Cooler!

And if you are going to drink, Dr. Funk says she personally favors red wine, because it's made with red grapes, which contain resveratrol. "Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant. It's in the skin of red grapes. I'm not advising to start drinking — you can get it from the grapes. But this resveratrol stops tumor production and proliferation," she says. "Then, you also have estrogen-reducing capacity. It inhibits an enzyme that makes more estrogen. So that is the double benefit of drinking red wine."

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