5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?
Most women are uncomfortably aware of the risk posed by breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, an American woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing the disease at some point in her lifetime. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can help you lower that risk. Here are some of the most beneficial lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
Make Physical Activity a Regular Part of Your Routine
Physical activity is beneficial for myriad reasons, and reducing the risk of breast cancer is one of them. Studies indicate that more physically active women have a 12-21% lower breast cancer risk than women who engage in less physical activity. In fact, the more you exercise, the less risk you have of developing breast cancer.
If you’re not already in the habit of getting regular physical exercise, don’t throw in the towel. Start now, building up slowly to the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, and you’ll position yourself to reap the many benefits of exercise, from stronger bones and muscles to reduced breast cancer risk.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Like physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight is a preventive measure that lowers the risk of a number of conditions, from cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea to breast cancer. The link between weight and breast cancer is particularly marked in postmenopausal women: Research suggests that postmenopausal women who are obese have a 30% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who aren’t obese. This increased risk may be due to the fact that, after menopause, most estrogen comes from fat tissue, so having more fat tissue results in higher estrogen levels, which is linked to a higher risk for breast cancer. Another factor may be that women who are overweight tend to have higher blood insulin levels, which has also been linked to breast cancer.
Limit Your Consumption of Alcohol
Studies suggest that even a moderate amount of alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that women limit their alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day, such as a 12-ounce serving of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
Breastfeed Your Babies, If Possible
Breastfeeding isn’t an option for every woman, but for new or prospective mothers, there’s good reason to choose to breastfeed your baby. It offers health benefits to your child — including reduced risk of infection, asthma and type 1 diabetes — and to you. Studies show that breastfeeding can be protective from pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer, especially when you breastfeed for six months or longer.
Choose Healthy Foods
It’s no secret that the typical American, or Western, diet consists of an excessive amount of processed foods, fat and sugar. There’s a potential link between this eating pattern and breast cancer: Studies indicate that the Western dietary pattern is associated with a 14% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, the prudent dietary pattern — rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, grilled fish and salad — is associated with an 18% decreased risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet, consisting of unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables, fish, seafood and olive products, is another healthy option, offering protection against breast cancer risk and recurrence.
There’s More You Can Do
In addition to making lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of breast cancer, there are other important steps you can take:
- Familiarize yourself with your family history. Your risk for breast cancer is higher if you have a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter), or multiple family members on either parent’s side of the family, who have had breast or ovarian cancer. A first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises your risk. If you do have a family history of breast cancer, talk with your doctor about additional steps you should take to protect yourself.
- Get regular mammograms. A mammogram can help detect breast cancer in the early stages before it spreads, making it easier to treat and leading to more successful outcomes. Depending on risk factors, regular mammograms may be recommended starting at age 40.
- Pay attention. If you notice changes in your breasts — skin discoloration, a change in shape, or a new lump — consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Women’s Health at Norton King’s Daughters’ Health
It’s important to be proactive about your health and well-being. At Norton King’s Daughters’ Health, our team of women’s healthcare providers can partner with you, helping you make lifestyle choices to protect your health, evaluate your breast cancer risk, and manage breast health through our Breast Care Program. Our state-of-the art Genius 3D Mammography can mean breast health screenings are more comfortable and more accurate. If you have questions about your health, make an appointment with one of our women’s healthcare providers. Or call 812-801-0440 to schedule a mammogram.