It’s easy to feel helpless when it comes to cancer. After all, cancer itself is such a frightening and devastating thing. For women especially, breast cancer can be a looming threat throughout adulthood, as 1 in 8 women in the U.S. can expect to develop invasive breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. While this statistic may seem shocking, there has been increased hope in recent decades with incidence rates dropping and survival rates growing, making this life-threatening disease a little less tragic and a little more manageable. The silver lining is this—you CAN take action to reduce your risk and ease your fears. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want you to be armed and prepared with 5 things you can do to take your risk for developing breast cancer into your own hands.
While there are some breast cancer risk factors, such as family history, that are simply out of anyone’s control, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer throughout your lifetime. Take charge of your health and well-being with the lifestyle change tips below, and raise some extra hope along the way. What better time to start than Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk is for developing breast cancer. As with most things in life, moderation is key. If you limit yourself to 3-4 alcoholic beverages per week, you can successfully decrease your risk! On the contrary, women who have 2-3 per day can expect to raise theirs by 20%. (American Cancer Society). This is due to the fact that alcohol is proven to increase estrogen levels and other hormones associated with breast cancer. Additionally, it also impacts our immune system by damaging the DNA in cells used as a natural defense mechanism. So, by limiting your adult beverages, you can lower your breast cancer risk and boost your overall health as well!
There’s really no way around it—smoking is simply one of the worst things you can do for your body and your health. If you’re a habitual smoker, it may be immensely difficult, but you CAN quit, regardless of how long you’ve been smoking. The best part is, your body will begin to heal itself within minutes of that final cigarette. When it comes to breast cancer in particular, a study from the American Cancer Society finds that smokers have a 24% greater risk of developing it. Do yourself a favor, for your breast cancer risk, and your overall health in general, and make today the day you decide to kick the habit.
According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight, especially after menopause, increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Reason being is that after menopause when the ovaries no longer produce estrogen, most of a woman’s estrogen supply comes from fat tissue. Women who have larger amounts of fat tissue will then have higher estrogen levels, which directly links to their breast cancer risk.
To help combat the breast cancer risks that accompany obesity, studies have found that regularly getting more physical activity can be extremely helpful. If you aren’t used to being physically active, it’s okay to start out small. Set a goal of 2 hours of moderate exercise per week, and slowly increase the length and intensity of your workouts. The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of higher intensity exercise each week. You can even do a combination of both, and spread it out throughout the week! It’s whatever works best for your body and your schedule.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—when it comes to your health, one of it best things you can be is proactive! Don’t wait until you think a problem exists before making the effort to get it checked out. Make it a point to have regular preventative breast screenings and routine check-ups. You can always self-examine in the comfort of your own home, but clinical breast exams and mammograms are just as important! Talk to your doctor to see what your options are.
Visit our blog “How to Be a Detective for Early Breast Cancer Detection!” for more information on breast cancer screenings and tips for early detection!
Take Breast Cancer Awareness Month to start your journey to reducing your risk, but be sure to make it a priority every month! Also, don’t forget to spread the word and join the fight to raise awareness for this devastating disease. If you’re a healthcare professional, your influence is even more important and crucial to the people around you. It’s more than just wearing a ribbon—it’s creating change, and it starts with each one of us!
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Author: Michelle Adams