As we know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. About 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and 85% of these women have no family history of the disease. Many of us know a friend, family member, co-worker or other loved one that has been diagnosed with breast cancer or you may have had your own personal experience. Over the past few years, breast cancer incidence has increased slightly, so I want to give some tips on how we can aim to decrease our own risk by controlling our own individual habits.
Increase Servings of Fruit and Vegetables
What we put into our body is always going to have the biggest effect on the quality of our lives. Eating enough fruits and vegetables is important to reduce breast cancer risk. The current recommendation is to have at least five combined servings of fruit and vegetables. A serving size is one cup or one medium piece of fruit, about the size of your fist. Every time you eat, make sure that you have either a fruit, a vegetable, or both, with your meals and snacks. This helps flood your body with nutrients to fight off potentially cancer-causing agents from other foods and our environment.
Limit alcohol intake
This may be a little bit more challenging, for some! The recommendation is for women to have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. For men, the number is two beverages per day. A serving of alcohol is a five-ounce glass of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. You may typically have two or three glasses of wine with your dinner, but keep in mind as your intake increases, it also increases your risk for developing breast cancer.
Control Your Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to live a healthy lifestyle. Aim for a healthy weight by controlling your portion sizes. Also, eat balanced meals, getting in a mix of different nutrients. Obesity, and being overweight have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause.
Regular Physical Activity
The recommendation is to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That can be split however you want… 30 minutes for five days, 50 minutes for three days, etc. Moderate-intensity exercise is an intensity where you may be a little bit out of breath, but you can still carry on a conversation. If you perform intense workouts, you only need 75 minutes of vigorous exercise for the week. Regular physical activity decreases your risk of developing different types of chronic diseases, including cancers.
Many people avoid the doctor and don’t go in for their annual exams. These exams are important because they help to screen and prevent diseases, seeking to stop them before they start. They also aid in early detection, which can save lives by providing treatments before the disease progresses. In addition to the annual exam, you should also perform your own self-breast check once a month. Feel for any changes and abnormalities. Also, mammograms are recommended beginning around 40-45 years old. If you have a family history of breast cancer, doctors often suggest getting your first one at age 35 so that you can start having a record of your breast health to track over time.
Though the incidence of breast cancer has only increased slightly over the years, it has become too common. We often discuss finding a cure, but we should really be fighting to prevent the disease from happening in the first place. Of course, there is no 100% guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, but we can control our own behaviors. Then, I hope over time, we can start to decrease these incidences and live an overall better quality of life in general.
U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. BreastCancer.Org website. February 13, 2019.
Breast Cancer Awareness: How to Decrease Your Risk. Mayo Clinic website. December 1, 2018.
Can I Lower My Risk of Breast Cancer? American Cancer Society website. September 10, 2019.
Lifestyle Related Breast Cancer Risk-Factors. American Cancer Society website. September 10, 2019.