October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and the color pink is the international symbol of awareness for breast cancer. Last year alone there were an additional 250,000 women in the United States diagnosed with breast cancer. While there is no cure for breast cancer at this time, there are precautionary steps that can be taken to lower your cancer risk today. Below are the top 10.
1) Exercise Regularly – Studies are showing whether you are a cancer survivor or if you are trying to reduce the risk of cancer, exercise will help. Exercise reduces the levels of circulating blood estrogen, which is a breast cancer risk factor. Thirty minutes a day has been shown to reduce overall breast-cancer risk by 20 percent among women at all levels of risk for the disease, according to a study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
2) Limit chronic stress – A study in 2008 found that the stress hormone, hydrocortisone, may repress the activity of a tumor-suppressing gene known as BRCA1 that is related to breast cancer. Focus on what you can change in your life, how you perceive situations and surround yourself with people and things that make you happy.
3) Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight or obese has been found to increase breast cancer risk. Before menopause women’s ovaries produce most of the estrogen, where as fat tissue produces a small amount of estrogen. However, after menopause, when the ovaries stop making estrogen, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue after menopause can increase your estrogen levels and thereby increase your likelihood of developing breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can help to limit your estrogen levels.
To calculate your ideal weight use the BMI calculator here.
4) Reduce alcohol intake – Recent studies have shown having one drink a day will increase the likelihood of breast cancer. Alcohol increases estrogen levels circulating in your blood.
6) Eat the good fats – Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut. Read the full artcile in the June 2009 issue of BMC Cancer.
7) Consider breast feeding your baby – Recent studies are showing that breast feeding your baby will help to reduce the incidence of developing cancer later in life.
8) Take in high fiber foods – Fiber is known to bind up estrogen as it travels through the intestinal tract, thus reducing estrogen levels in the blood. A 1995 study in Australia showed that women with fiber-rich diets had 36 percent less risk than those who didn’t consume enough fiber daily. For maximum benefit, 35 grams of fiber a day, whole grains vs. refined grains, 1/2 cup of wheat bran and beans are recommended in the daily diet.
9) Regular self exam– Early detection is critical. The more familiar you are with how your breasts feel the more likely you will be able to detect an abnormal lump. A self breast exam should not take the place of regular screening mammograms performed by your physician.
Learn the self breast exam from Susan G. Komen website here.
10) See your doctor – It has been suggested that women ages 20 to 39 should have a clinical breast exam at least once every 3 years. Ask your doctor how often you should have one during your annual physical. Once a woman turns 40, she should have a clinical breast exam each year and a screening mammogram every 1 to 2 years.