You absolutely can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer factors. Not all factors are controllable, but you can improve your odds against getting breast cancer by managing the risk factors that are controllable. Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women of Hispanic origin, and is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in women of all other races and origins. Know the risk factors, and take steps now to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
Limit your alcohol intake
The more you drink, the more you increase your risk of breast cancer.
- If choose to drink alcohol, including wine, beer, or liquor, take steps to limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day.
- For every drink you have each day, statistics show that you are increasing your risk by 10% to 12% over those that do not drink.
- The reasons behind the increased odds of breast cancer associated with all forms of alcohol are not clear, but there has been an association between blood alcohol levels and changes in the amounts of estrogens and other hormones that circulate in the blood.
If you are a smoker, then take steps to quit. If you are a non-smoker, then don’t ever start.
- Smoking has been linked to many forms of cancer and recent evidence is now suggesting it also increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
- The research found that you have a 24% higher risk of getting breast cancer if you smoke.
- Former smokers have a 13% higher risk of getting cancer compared to those that never smoked.
- Another study supports those numbers and adds that women who started smoking at an early age have a 12% increase in their odds of getting breast cancer. Women that started smoking before their first pregnancy have a 21% increase in risk.
- This may all sound like risk factors that you can’t control based on your smoking history, but you can control what you do now to decrease your odds. If you are a smoker, take steps to quit.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight has been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer.
- The odds of breast cancer are even greater if the weight gain, or obesity, developed after menopause.
- Women that gained their weight after menopause have a 30% to 60% higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Oddly, women that were overweight or obese before menopause have a 20% to 40% less likely to develop breast cancer compared to women of healthy weight.
- The reasons behind the weight changes and timing are not entirely clear but are thought to be related to hormonal fluctuations.
Be physically active
There are many benefits to being physically active, one of which is tied to reducing your risk of breast cancer.
- The general guidelines for physical activity include 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic activity.
- If you are already exercising, the suggested amount of vigorous activity to reduce your risk is 75 minutes each week of aerobic activity in addition to strength training at least twice weekly.
- Start exercising now. Some research suggests that women that have maintained an inactive lifestyle for many years may be at greater risk.
Breast-feed your baby
The longer you breast-feed, the more you reduce your risk. While the reduction in risk is relatively small, it is still a way you can improve your odds against developing breast cancer.
You can reduce your risk by 4.3% for every 12 months you breast-feed. That includes one child or several.
Limit hormone therapy
There is an increase in the risk of breast cancer in women that take hormone therapy for the symptoms associated with menopause.
- Research suggests that taking combination hormone therapy, meaning you are taking both an estrogen product and a progesterone product or that both types are contained in the same pill, increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Work done shows that the increase in risk also includes more cases of invasive breast cancer leading to more cancer deaths in women that take combination hormone therapy, even for a short time.
- The other type of hormone therapy contains estrogen only. This form also increases your risk but only if you take the hormone therapy for an extended amount of time, such as 10 years or more. If you do not have a uterus and take estrogen alone, it may actually reduce your chances of breast cancer.
- The good news is that once you stop taking hormone therapy, your risks drop back to normal in about three to five years.
- If you feel you need hormone therapy to control menopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor about reducing your dose. This is one way to limit your exposure to hormone therapy.
Avoid exposure to radiation
Exposure to high doses of radiation to the chest area has been linked to an increase in the incidence of breast cancer.
- Some diagnostic testing equipment, such as computerized tomography, known as CT scans, use high levels of radiation.
- While diagnostic testing is critical in determining the source of medical problems, talk to your doctor about other methods that might work as well as CT scans in order to limit the exposure of radiation to your chest area.
- Be sure to wear the recommended protective equipment if you work in an area that involves radiation treatments.
- Some jobs require exposure to environmental pollutants such as chemical fumes and gasoline exhaust that can also be dangerous. Be sure to understand the proper steps to take in order to keep yourself protected from exposure to environmental pollutants.
Eat a healthy diet
There are many benefits to eating a healthy diet, including controlling your weight which is a way to reduce your risk.
- A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables may be helpful in preventing breast cancer although study results are inconclusive in showing a clear protective effect.
- A slight improvement in breast cancer survival has been noted with a consistent diet that is considered low-fat.
- The benefit of the low-fat diet was reported as significant in the survival of women that were already diagnosed with breast cancer.
- The dietary changes included steps such as eliminating butter, margarine, cream, oils included in salad dressings, and fatty meats such as sausages.
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