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Changes you made after diagnosis?

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Hi,

I'm curious what lifestyle changes you made after your cancer diagnosis in hopes of protecting/improving your health and long-term outcome. Could include anything: exercise, diet, use of supplements, essential oils, etc. Or things that you stopped using or doing. Not to replace treatment, just to be as healthy as you can with things you can control.

I was just diagnosed, and was really surprised as I am 37, active and eat a plant-based diet. I was on Zoloft (an antidepressant) for several years and can only wonder if that played a role in the breast cancer. I've recently stopped taking it.

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Comments

  • edwards750
    edwards750 Member Posts: 1,568
    edited January 2018
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    I’ve never heard that Zoloft could be one of the culprits that causes cancer.

    The fact is doctors don’t really know why some of us drew the unlucky card. Genetics can be traced to some BCs but the truth is 70% of BC cases are not genetically driven. It’s obvious that you can do everything right and still get it. I know women who lived a similar lifestyle like yours. Living a healthy lifestyle will help you in your recovery.

    We all wanted to know why me? Doesn’t change the outcome but we certainly would do everything in our power to avoid whatever it was.

    Diane


  • axolotl
    axolotl Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
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    I've found a few articles that suggest there may be a link between SSRIs (the class of antidepressants that includes Zoloft) and breast cancer, but it certainly isn't an established fact:

    https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/740875

    https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20000616/...

    What I have discovered is that Zoloft can reduce the effectiveness of Tamoxifen. Other SSRIs have an even stronger effect on Tamoxifen.

    https://www.rxlist.com/drug-interactions/sertralin...

    I stopped taking Zoloft because I'd been taking it long-term and honestly felt I didn't need it anymore, and it had side effects I was getting tired of. I stopped taking it just before my bc diagnosis. I will say that when I needed it, I was glad it was available. I'm not anti-anti-depressants. I just wish I could identify something that might have triggered the bc so I could I avoid that thing in the future.

  • wallycat
    wallycat Member Posts: 1,276
    edited January 2018
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    I also am trying to reduce stress (right, like that's possible after a cancer dx)!--I've added meditation

    I'm trying to do some things differently but still try and be in the realm of what is thought to be good health care.

    -I used to have a BMI of 19; I'm heavier. Still normal BMI, just 2 or 3 points higher.

    -I used to exercise 2+ hours/day; I now exercise more gently...I try to do yoga a few times/week. DH and I try to take a daily walk but are not obsessed about it. I try to do some isometric/weight bearing exercises but no longer go to the gym to lift heavy weights.

    -I used to be a low-fat vegetarian; I now eat fat with abandon and I eat meat.

    -I used to only drink wine; I've added an occasional spirit a few times/month.

    -I used to be diligent about vitamins; I still take supplements but don't care if I miss a few days here or there.

    -I never took aspirin; I started aspirin when I was put on tamoxifen and continue to take it.

    -I never took melatonin; Started taking it with tamoxifen and continue to take it.


    I think cancer is a crap-shoot. I think epigenetics will bear that out as they learn more and more about it. I try to be kinder to myself. When I was first diagnosed, I looked under every rock to discover why I got the cancer...the longer time has elapsed and the more people I know that get it, the more I realize it has to be a constellation of events that trigger something. Sort of like the Big Bang and how evolution got us to here....still trying to figure it out.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,069
    edited January 2018
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    This is a great thread, and goes to show that changes to lifestyle after a cancer diagnosis can really go in many directions.

    Thanks for starting this thread, Axolotl!

  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited January 2018
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    HI Axolotl,

    I'm staying vegan and just making sure to add as many of the vegan foods of this list as possible http://foodforbreastcancer.com/recommended-foods.p... & avoid anything on this list http://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods-to-avoid.php


    Also, I read this 2017 journal article on the evidence based lifestyle modification factors which lower risk of recurrence.
    http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/7/E268.full?sid=0be...

    Even though I was fit & active, I'm going to be paying extra attention to my aerobic exercise & once cleared by my doctors I will start in the weight room.

  • Momine
    Momine Member Posts: 2,845
    edited January 2018
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    At first I changed my diet quite drastically to a mostly plant-based, low-carb diet. In the long term though, that was not sustainable. For one thing, I couldn't keep my weight at a healthy level (kept losing). Now I eat more "normally," but I do eat my veggies, avoid white starches and sweets most of the time, make sure to get enough fibre.

    I also aim to get 1.5 hours of exercise a day, even if it is mostly walking. Exercise is correlated to better survival odds, and the greatest benefit hits at about 10 hours of exercise a week. Besides, there is no downside (the way there is with many supplements and other interventions), it helps my bad back, improves sleep and mood, keeps my weight in check, so pretty much a win-win.

    Try to get enough sleep, focus on enjoying myself, learned to say no to things I don't feel like doing. I figure my lifespan may well be cut short, and when it comes time to die, what matters is how well you lived, not how long that life was. So I deliberately aim to get as much out of life as I can. Mostly little things, but they add up nicely. I guess you could call it mindfulness. Taking that moment to fully enjoy a beautiful sunset, pretty flowers, a friend's smile, and not allowing other thoughts to interfere.

    Apropos exercise, although not related to cancer, this just came out: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/regular...


  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited January 2018
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    Momine, thanks for sharing that exercise study. Super interesting.

  • axolotl
    axolotl Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
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    Thanks for sharing everyone! The links are helpful. I'm looking forward to exercising again after my mastectomy drain is removed.

  • meow13
    meow13 Member Posts: 1,363
    edited January 2018
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    My healthy weight, exercise, and diet didn't protect me nor were there and any known genetic issues.

    Very disappointed there was nothing I could do to lower my risk.

  • axolotl
    axolotl Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
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    I'm so sorry to hear that, Meow13. Even if it didn't prevent bc, do you feel that your healthy lifestyle has helped you in other ways? For example, in speeding up recovery from treatment, dealing with side effects, or managing difficult emotions?

  • claireinaz
    claireinaz Member Posts: 680
    edited January 2018
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    Aspirin 1, full dose

    3-5 hours of at least moderate exercise a week (or more), see Nurses Study and exercise as a prevention against recurrence; yoga 3x a week (flow and bikram-style)

    Vit D (5000 i.u.s, my MO checks my levels every year and wants them to be at least 55 or above, to about 70)

    Organic to avoid pesticides

    BMI 19; I have to count calories to do this using MyFitnessPal app, since Aromasin and menopause makes it hard to lose now

    Plant-based with occasional wild caught fish; little to no dairy other than a yogurt from time to time

    I probably still drink too much wine on occasion.

    avoid parabens and the like in my cosmetics and lotions, etc

    I've started taking SAM-e b/c of mood problems/anxiety attributed to aromasin

    With melatonin, I try to get 7 hours of sleep a night. It's helping.

    Daily meditation and journaling

    That's all I can think of at present...




  • runnerhil
    runnerhil Member Posts: 1
    edited January 2018
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    I kept up with my usual exercise regimin (running 2-3 times a week, and a few visits to the gym for weights each week) after my diagnosis and shortly following my treatment. Staying fit definitely helps my mood and, at 65, I was thrilled to place 2nd in a major half marathon in the fall. Take that, cancer! :)

    As for diet, I always followed a pretty healthy diet so I'm keeping that up. I love my wine and at first cut way back (fearing it "caused" my cancer), but life is short and frankly, I was doing everything "right" and still got cancer, so I'm not going to sacrifice one of life's little pleasures. I find that my running (which I didn't start until I was 63) is a lifesaver, in terms of my feeling healthy and in control. Not everyone can/wants to run, so I'm sure that walking would have the same benefits. Being in nature and feeling alive--those are priceless for keeping your sanity.

  • meow13
    meow13 Member Posts: 1,363
    edited January 2018
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    Yes, being healthy did help me get through treatment. But I just want to really understand what can prevent cancer a vaccine or something. To make people think if they quote lower the risk factors they will be ok it doesn't work.

  • Momine
    Momine Member Posts: 2,845
    edited January 2018
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    Same here, being reasonably fit and otherwise healthy helped me get through treatment with minimal repercussions and also helped me recover quite quickly.

    Also, there can be long-term side effects of treatment, especially for those of us who got the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach. I like to think that keeping fit, eating properly etc. may help alleviate those as well. For example, I had FEC chemo which can damage the heart. Last time the gave me an echo, which was 2 years out from DX, they said my heart was back to normal. AIs affect the bones. At least some of that damage can be counteracted with weight-bearing exercise. The other thing is that bad balance is as much a risk factor for fractures as bone loss is. Doing yoga and other exercise can help maintain good posture and balance.

  • Amelia01
    Amelia01 Member Posts: 178
    edited January 2018
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    Meow- I hear you. I thought I had been living healthy enough - low BMI, 10,000 steps x day (ok, they were fast city walking, not aerobic), haven't used chemical products on my skin in over 8 years, mostly only organic (perhaps not enough veggies?) but sure, I did have a lot of sugar in my diet in the form of wine and I live in an extremely polluted city and there is no escaping that.

    And I hate to be the bearer of bad news to all, but alcohol consumption is very bad for breast cancer, but not other cancers. And that is the insult to the injury, right?

    Do I think my less than perfect eating / exercising lifestyle was a cause? I do not.

    However.... I was super stressed, oftentimes angry and in a dead marriage bordering psychologically abusive- actually not bordering, it was, and I had been going to a therapist for it for a few years, but it was my husband who needed to go and wouldn't!

    I see it like this --- the continued cortisol levels being in an alarm state from hating the guy who parked on the sidewalk or the dog owner who didn't clean up the crap, not giving myself enough pleasurable moments and having few outlets of joy, and having an oftentimes evil husband, I think that my body created the 7cm tumor to protect my broken heart. The first question my holistic oncologist asked me was if I had had any losses in the family in the previous two years. Yeah, my marriage, I told her. After dx my husband and I thoroughly discussed our marital situation and he has now (thankfully!) become my rock and of utmost support. We are hoping to have at least those 10 lost years back to do over and then 30 more.

    The point being, that in addition to bouts of depression, I wasn't at all taking care enough of myself. All my efforts were geared towards my family and I left myself the short end of the stick. Sheryl Crow has a similar belief to her cancer. And it isn't by chance that more often than not, breast cancer starts in the left (nurturing) breast.

    So my changes have been to curtail the sugar (wine on few very occasions, a cookie here and there, mostly here), go off meat almost entirely (only exception organic), and try to eat at regular times (hugely important for the body to have a regular schedule so it stays in homeostasis), plus I've added in a whole host of vitamins and supplements and am starting up with aspirin.

    I'm putting this article out there wherever I post because it is a must read for all of us! It is scarier than not, but the good thing is that through diet and supplementation we can have a better chance of avoiding recurrence! Based on this evidence I would drop all adjuvant chemo but I'm too afraid to give up what might be better off for me. What I can do is add about 5g of fish oil and aspirin to my list of daily capsules. Resolvins .... the key to add to chemo.

    https://hms.harvard.edu/news/double-edged-sword?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hms-facebook-general

    btw - a friend's wife was just dx, she is mid 50s a vegetarian, always exercising, lives in a coastal town (good air and vitamin D in addition to the sea iodine in the air).... she has a strong genetic factor, but her probably perfect lifestyle didn't protect her. Crap shoot.

  • claireinaz
    claireinaz Member Posts: 680
    edited January 2018
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    Meow13, I look at everything I'm doing as a way to lessen risk, realizing I'm still at risk (and my MO reminds me of it every single regular check up somehow, too) .

    In the end, all I really care about is either 0% or 100% (we won't get it again), and I'm waiting for that drug (is it too much to ask that it be relatively side-effect free?) that will simply stop c in its tracks--I don't even care if it doesn't disappear but that it stops growing completely and never goes anywhere else.

    Or to live long enough because of what I do to die of something else much later.

    But I do find that my challenging exercise regime both reassures me that I am still being proactive, even though not in active chemo-or-rads tx any longer, and also relieves some anxiety that I experience related to PTSD of being a caregiver for my late husband when he had cancer and then my own experience. I take comfort in a weekly routine and don't usually deviate from it.

    Running (jog), hiking (much faster!)), climbing hills, athletic yoga, hot yoga, weightlifting, keeping BMI lower, and eating the way I do (incidentally I'd been a vegetarian for years before dx, now even more rigorous diet choices) helps me. I look at my changes I've made this way: I'm doing everything that seems to have good research behind it to lessen my chances of a return. If it does return, I can at least try to avoid the adage: "if only I'd done this, taken that drug, etc etc" when I had the chance.

    Claire

  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited January 2018
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    Claire - can you comment please on the BMI. Why 19? Is that just where you naturally settle or is there are an evidence based reason for pushing for 19? I've read staying in healthy bmi zone is important but I hover around 20.5-21. I want to know if I should plan on dropping that lower.

  • axolotl
    axolotl Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
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    I appreciate all the posts here! Thanks for the tip about aspirin - I didn't know it might be helpful. According to what I found on breastcancer.org, there are some studies that show it may reduce breast cancer risk, and is a weak aromatase inhibitor. http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/link-bet...

    I'm making a list of change to make this year:

    • Reduce stress (through yoga, exercise, and meditation)
    • Sleep more (8 hours per night)
    • Exercise more. Join the "get fit" group at work. Go rollerblading in the park.
    • Keep up my plant-based diet. Eat more cabbage, turmeric and berries.
    • Cut sugar and saturated fats (less coconut milk and oil - I was eating a lot of it)
    • Supplements: SAM-e, aspirin, L-theanine and fish oil
    • Spend more time in nature

    And finally, to enjoy life.

  • PauletteK
    PauletteK Member Posts: 1,279
    edited January 2018
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    This is such a good thread, question why BMI 19?i thoughtis average, am I right?


  • axolotl
    axolotl Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
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    Hmmm...so after looking into it further I think aspirin will be no good for me as I'm young (37) and still have my ovaries. In fact it could carry a risk? I'm learning very interesting things about differences in pre- and post menopausal women and bc. Another thing I found on the Internet is that in premenopausal women obesity might be protective factor. Go figure!

  • Momine
    Momine Member Posts: 2,845
    edited January 2018
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    Paulette, no, 19 is basically the lowest BMI that is still within normal range. Mine is also just under 19, which is where it settled after treatment (after a dip into underweight). I was quite a bit heavier when DXed. Still within normal range, but 25 lbs heavier than I am now. I think at my heaviest, my BMI was 23. In other words the range within normal BMI is pretty big, and I figure that if the objective is to reduce body fat (which produces estrogen) then I don't need that extra 25 lbs. At my height my minimum weight (18.5 BMI) is 120.5 lbs and my max (25 BMI) is 163, which is a pretty huge range. Also my weight now is the one I consider my normal. It was my weight from age about 16 to 26, when something happened to my hormones and I packed on extra weight and developed adult boobs.

    However, I have very light bones and musculature. At 19 BMI I am sort of skinny, but not ridiculously so. My mother, who has a heavier build and real muscles would look gaunt and weird at 19 BMI. She looks skinny at 20 and nicely slender at 21.

  • meow13
    meow13 Member Posts: 1,363
    edited January 2018
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    One thing is stress and down right unhappiness should get more attention as a risk factor. Getting away from annoying or abusive people in your life.

    I mean if you do drink, then cutdown, if you are over weight then lose weight, those are basic health concerns that should help not just breast cancer concerns.

    But the studies and endless news articles will drive you crazy nullifying the intented benefit. They tend to blame the victim not really help.

    Perfectly healthy people get the disease, not just genetically unfortunates and overweight alcoholics.

  • PauletteK
    PauletteK Member Posts: 1,279
    edited January 2018
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    Meow I agreed with you, I will try to enjoy each day. Change my diet to more vegetables, less meat, workout more, don’t be perfection, then will be less stress.



  • waytooanxiousmommy
    waytooanxiousmommy Member Posts: 5
    edited January 2018
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    I can't bear to put unhealthy stuff in my body anymore so Im eating great and this helps me feel good. Chemo is taking my hair and destroying my skin etc but I am losing weight because I am eating better and exercising and this helps me to stay positive about my body.

    Learning to be truthful about my reality. Right now I have cancer and I am going through chemo and I have lost all my hair. Thats me.

    I have to interview for jobs and I wonder how thats going to be without hair etc

    I cry sometimes when I look at my sons. They are too young to lose their mother. Not something I can do much about. I am getting the best possible care and also taking care of myself but its really up to god

    Life goes on. Bad shit happens to a lot of people. Just have to stop the pity party I like to have for myself and try to enjoy each day. All we have is the present. Tomorrow is never guaranteed for any of us

  • Amelia01
    Amelia01 Member Posts: 178
    edited January 2018
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    Waytooanxious.... I cry too. I have a 9 year old son who hasn't a clue of what is going on except that I had surgery (he doesn't know really where) and I have to spend 6 months going to doctors to make sure I'm better. He was away on school xmas vacation for my first EC and I might go away for the days following the others. I do not want him to see me in the shape that I was in for those first days.

    And some days I'm on the top of the world. I'm NED, I don't have cancer, they ripped it out. Everything is just super inconvenient and in six months I'll get the damn painful port out and get a great boob job and life will go on.

    And other days I am depressed.

    This is the routine and I doubt anyone is alway peppy and outgoing nor is anyone without some sort of beacon of hope that it will all turn out ok.

    I really don't think I want the magic ball to see, unless, of course, it only shows good news. I suppose this is why we need to make sure we allow ourselves the best quality of life possible and look less at the prospective quantity (look twice before crossing streets, just in case, right?).

    I was declined access to the clinical trial because of my low (17) bmi. They require at least 20 which I have never been in my whole life. Sure I've lost about 10 pounds since diagnosis but only because I stopped eating animal products and drinking and I honestly do not like vegetables. I'm really let down about this, because the most upsetting part about the treatment for me, it that I am given "standard" treatment and frankly, in my eyes, I am not standard and have the means to have better than standard. Presumptuous, maybe, but that is my perspective. The trial would have had constant monitoring of immune system among other things. Many clinics around the world are doing it, so for anyone curious, it is based on the Fasting Mimicking Diet which is believed to be more than just staving of chemo side effects but protective of healthy cells.

    In any case I spoke at length with the doctor running the trial and asked about nutrition and heard what everyone else has said. Few to no animal products (better none) max 2 times a week on eggs, and a diet of low glycemic foods (happy to have found that dark chocolate is low GI as are peanut M&Ms!). The single most important aspect of overall good body health is keeping the body in homeostasis. No sugar spikes, no skipping meals, and everything on a regular basis (inclusive of sleep, which may not be 8 hours for everyone, but consistent bed and awakening times are important).

    Bottom line - be like a dog or cat who's body clocks are in perfect synch with their food and sleep times.

    Bonus news, he did allow for 1-2 glasses of wine a week (his index finger was still pretty close to his thumb in measurement of amount).



  • dtad
    dtad Member Posts: 771
    edited January 2018
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    Hi everyone. I just want to make a distinction between diet and exercise preventing breast cancer vs diet and exercise preventing a bc recurrence. IMO there is a big difference. Many factors are involved in actuality getting breast, most of which you cannot control. However once you get it there are several things you can do to lower recurrence rates such as diet and excercise. The combination has been shown to lower rates by 40 percent, anti hormones by 50 percent. Hope this makes sense. Good luck to all..

  • stephaniebc
    stephaniebc Member Posts: 21
    edited January 2018
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    nice thread.

    the biggest change is diet. my weight was already healthy before bc but now i eat really really well, tons of vegetables, whole grains only, nuts, berries. i try to avoid added sugars (have ice cream once in a while).

    i used to drink wine daily with meals (i'm french), now i keep it to social occasions.

    i take a turmeric supplement and a baby aspirin.

    working on drinking more green tea. working on exercising more regularly: this has been the hardest for me. i love biking but it's the winter in new york city...

    as a reader and fan of susan sontag (illness and its metaphors), i am a little suspicious of psychosomatic theories when it comes to breast cancer but lowering stress levels certainly doesn't hurt.

    i agree with momine that enjoying the little things in life is very important. i was always good at that and i am even better at it now.

  • Momine
    Momine Member Posts: 2,845
    edited January 2018
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    Stephanie, like you, I am dubious about the psychosomatic connection. Surely, persistent stress and unhappiness are bad for you. I am just not convinced that they cause cancer. Life is full of stress and difficult situations. These last 2 years have been insanely stressful for me, yet I am still alive it seems. I do remember a study years back, which looked at how people deal with stress, and it seemed to indicate that our way of dealing with it may influence longevity. It basically found that people who could deal with losses and setbacks in a philosophical way were better off.

    Then there is the doc, the one who also treated Steve Jobs at some point (a real doc, not a carrot juice guy), who believes that the stress that matters in terms of disease is the everyday stress we don't think about, like not sleeping well, not keeping proper meal times etc. Not major life events.

    So it is interesting, but I think we still have much to learn.

  • lexica
    lexica Member Posts: 138
    edited January 2018
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    hi, Axolotl, can you provide info on why aspirin might not begood for prevention in premenopausal women? Thanks

  • axolotl
    axolotl Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
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    Hi Lexica,

    Aspirin is a mild aromatase inhibitor. Aromatase inhibitors work by reducing estrogen circulating in the body. In premenopausal women, most estrogen is made by the ovaries. When there is a reduction of estrogen in the body of a younger woman, it triggers a feedback loop that encourages the ovaries to up the estrogen production. This is why premenopausal women are given Tamoxifen, which works differently, whereas once women reach menopause (or have their ovaries removed) they can take aromatase inhibitors.

    The articles I found about aspirin use for the prevention of breast cancer in premenopausal women all site the same research study. Here is one of them. No evidence of premenopausal breast cancer benefit with aspirin: https://www.medpagetoday.com/hematologyoncology/br...

    If someone else has different information, I'd love to hear it, as aspirin would be so cheap and easy to take every day. And perhaps there are other reasons to take it. Also, I'm unclear on how the combination of Tamoxifen and a baby aspirin every day would work together.