Creating change by raising awareness of causes that ensure a better future.

October 7, 2011

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

How to Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer

More than 261,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society, making it the second most common malignancy in women after skin cancer.
Making the following changes in your life will improve your overall health and also MAY SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE your risk for breast cancer:

  1. Regular screening tests for breast cancer, such as an annual mammogram and a breast exam during your annual checkup, allow you and your doctor to ensure that your breasts are as healthy as they can be. Screening also increases the likelihood that your doctor will find breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable.
  2. Stop smoking. You should use every resource you can find to help you quit smoking — for good! Research shows that smoking causes many diseases, and it is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Smoking can also increase complications from breast cancer treatment. It can worsen radiation damage to the lung, cause difficulty healing after surgery, and increase risk of blood clots with hormonal therapy. Get help to help quit.
  3. Get more exercise. Exercise has many healthy benefits. Research has shown that 5 hours of exercise a week may lower the risk of breast cancer. Over time, exercise may be able to lower the estrogen levels in your body. With less estrogen around, there is less stimulation of breast cell growth, which is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Other research on exercise and breast cancer has found that exercise also can help boost the immune system, limit weight gain from chemotherapy, and help ease treatment side effects.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight women have an increased risk of getting breast cancer after menopause. And being overweight can increase the risk of breast cancer coming back in women who have had the disease.
  5. Learn about good nutrition and start eating for good health.Everything your body does — from healing a wound to fighting cancer cells — is affected by what you eat. Bad nutrition seriously hampers your body’s ability to function in top form. Good nutrition increases general wellness. Some researchers believe that eating too much cholesterol and other fats are risk factors for cancer, and studies show that eating a lot of red and/or processed meats is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
  6. Relax. Anything you can do to reduce your stress and to enhance your comfort, joy, and satisfaction will have a major effect on your quality of life. So-called “mindful measures” (such as meditation, yoga, visualization exercises, and prayer) may be valuable additions to your daily or weekly routine. Intriguing new studies suggest that these fundamental but non-traditional interventions may strengthen the immune system.
  7. Eat your fruits and vegetables! Researchers disagree on whether certain vegetables or fruits reduce risk for breast cancer. One report that combined many dietary studies showed no clear decrease in risk of breast cancer from diets high in vegetables and fruits. But a diet full of produce can help you lose weight or maintain a good weight. So through this indirect result, this type of diet may also be able to help lower breast cancer risk.
  8. Spend time with friends.  A study found that women in breast cancer support groups had a better quality of life and more immune cells in the blood than those who don’t join such groups. The power of support goes a long way to reduce stress and make people feel connected — not alone — in their fight against cancer.
  9. If circumstances allow, consider having children sooner rather than later in life and breastfeed your babies. A full-term pregnancy, which stops your menstrual cycle for 9 months, seems to offer protection against breast cancer. Pregnancy produces a blend of several hormones that forces breast cells to “grow up” and learn how to make milk. Estrogen is in the mix of the hormonal blend, but the other hormones seem to balance out its effects. When breast cells mature and have a job to do, they have less time to act out and cause problems — like starting a cancer. Additionally, research shows that breastfeedinglowers breast cancer risk for both younger mothers and women who have delayed having children.
  10. Alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that breast cancer risk increases with the amount of alcohol a woman drinks. Alcohol can limit your liver’s ability to control blood levels of the hormone estrogen, which in turn can increase risk.
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