Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. And as with any other lifestyle disease, all women can be at risk of getting breast cancer at some point in their life. Of course, there are factors that increase or decrease the risk such as body weight, diet, the level of physical activity, and even genetic factors. Fortunately, most of these factors are within our control and a few key lifestyle changes can drastically cut down the risk. Here’s what you can do to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.
Firstly, exercise keeps your weight in check. Research shows that gaining too much weight, especially after menopause can increase your chances of developing cancer.1 To avoid this, include at least 30 minutes of activity a day. Even just brisk walking is enough to cut down risk. It would be wise to increase your physical activity during the workday as well. Research shows that sitting throughout the majority of the day can increase the risk of many types of cancer including breast cancer.2 Try to take one on one meetings outside while on a walk. Take breaks to stretch your legs. Use some part of your lunch hour to take a stroll with a colleague.
2. Quit Smoking
There is more than enough evidence to show that smoking is extremely harmful to your body. Here’s another among a million other reasons to quit smoking. It significantly increases one’s risk of getting breast cancer.3 Studies show that compounds in the cigarettes can increase carcinogenic activity in the mammary tissue.4 If you have a smoking habit, it would be very wise to try and quit.
3. If You Can, Breastfeed
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, breastfeeding can help keep you cancer-free. Research shows that a longer duration of breastfeeding is clearly related to a lower incidence of breast cancer.5 6
4. Avoid Menopausal Hormone Therapy
Doctors often prescribe additional hormone supplements to help treat menopausal symptoms such as bone loss, hot flashes, and depression. Usually, estrogen and progestin are prescribed together or sometimes just estrogen alone. Both of these supplements have been linked to a higher risk of developing the disease.7 8 If your doctor prescribes these supplements, ask if there are alternatives available. You may also be able to treat post-menopausal symptoms with other dietary supplements and lifestyle changes.9
5. Eat A Healthy Diet
Make sure that the majority of your diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables (organic is always best). Vegetables like kale, cauliflower, arugula, and broccoli may have anti-cancer properties as well. When it comes to meat, avoid processed and cured meats like bacon, salami, or bologna. Studies show that including fiber as well as lots of garlic and onion in your diet can have a preventative effect when it comes to breast cancer.10 Try to avoid high sodium and high sugar foods. Limit the intake of saturated fat as well to prevent weight gain.
6. Limit Alcohol
There is enough hard evidence to link excess alcohol with the development of most types of cancer including breast cancer. While a moderate amount is said to be good for the heart, anything above this can exponentially increase risk.11 Women should stick to one standard drink a day which is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like gin, tequila, or vodka. 12
7. Get Regular Checkups
The two forms of screening that are commonly used are mammograms and MRIs. Most women have only a mammogram done, but those who are considered to be high risk, do both. High-risk women include those with family history and those that are genetically predisposed.13 An annual check up at the hospital with a mammogram is recommended for women over 40. It is recommended that all adult women perform a self-exam at home, every month at the end of the menstrual cycle. Check for irregular lumps, changes in contour, swelling, dimpling, or the presence of any discharge. Familiarize yourself with your breasts, how they look and feel so that you can tell easier if something is out of the ordinary. If you do happen to come across something that worries you, call your doctor to see if you need it checked out. Better safe than sorry!
With these simple changes to your lifestyle, you can easily cut down your risk of getting breast cancer by a significant amount.
|↑1||8 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer. Siteman Cancer Center|
|↑2||Schmid, Daniela, and Michael F. Leitzmann. “Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers, Regensburg.” Journal of National Cancer Institute (2014).|
|↑3||Catsburg, Chelsea, Anthony B. Miller, and Thomas E. Rohan. “Active cigarette smoking and risk of breast cancer.” International journal of cancer 136, no. 9 (2015): 2204-2209.|
|↑4||Terry, Paul D., and Thomas E. Rohan. “Cigarette smoking and the risk of breast cancer in women.” Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 11, no. 10 (2002): 953-971.|
|↑5||Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. “Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50 302 women with breast cancer and 96 973 women without the disease.” The Lancet 360, no. 9328 (2002): 187-195.|
|↑6||Eisinger, François, and Wylie Burke. “Breast cancer and breastfeeding.” The Lancet 361, no. 9352 (2003): 176-177.|
|↑7||Chlebowski, Rowan T., Lewis H. Kuller, Ross L. Prentice, Marcia L. Stefanick, JoAnn E. Manson, Margery Gass, Aaron K. Aragaki et al. “Breast cancer after use of estrogen plus progestin in postmenopausal women.” New England Journal of Medicine 360, no. 6 (2009): 573-587.|
|↑8||Chlebowski, Rowan T., Garnet Anderson, JoAnn E. Manson, Mary Pettinger, Shagufta Yasmeen, Dorothy Lane, Robert D. Langer et al. “Estrogen alone in postmenopausal women and breast cancer detection by means of mammography and breast biopsy.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 28, no. 16 (2010): 2690-2697.|
|↑9||Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑10||Challier, Bruno, Jean-Marc Perarnau, and Jean-François Viel. “Garlic, onion and cereal fibre as protective factors for breast cancer: a French case–control study.” European journal of epidemiology 14, no. 8 (1998): 737-747.|
|↑11||Smith-Warner, Stephanie A., Donna Spiegelman, Shiaw-Shyuan Yaun, Piet A. Van Den Brandt, Aaron R. Folsom, R. Alexandra Goldbohm, Saxon Graham et al. “Alcohol and breast cancer in women: a pooled analysis of cohort studies.” Jama 279, no. 7 (1998): 535-540.|
|↑13||What Is Breast Cancer Screening? Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.|