In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are five ways you can lower your risk:
Shed those extra pounds
Losing weight might not be at the top of your to-do list, but when it comes to breast cancer, making it a priority can have life-changing results.
Women over 50 must be especially aware of the changes in their body. After menopause, primary estrogen production shifts from the ovaries to fatty tissues. Since higher estrogen levels are linked to higher rates of breast cancer, an excess of body fat, especially in the mid-section, can increase your risk of developing the disease.
“Women who gain 55 pounds of more after age 18 have a 1.5-times greater risk of developing breast cancer,” according to Dr. Jeffrey Cronk, medical oncologist and cancer program director at Sutter Delta Medical Center.
Stay physically active
In addition to increasing your energy levels, improving your mood and reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes, regular exercise can help prevent tumor development.
“A routine exercise plan can prevent tumor development by lowering hormone levels and increasing the body’s disease-fighting response,” said Cronk. “The activity you choose doesn’t need to be strenuous.”
Cronk recommends getting 40 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
Eat a healthy diet
Fast food or grocery store? It’s one of those split-second decisions you often make based on convenience, but the choice can impact your health – including your risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers have found a link between obesity and breast cancer development. A low-calorie diet combined with five servings of fruits and vegetables per day can help you maintain a healthy weight and help reduce your risk.
Limit your alcohol
It doesn’t matter what your drink of choice is, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a greater risk of developing breast cancer. According to Cronk, “Women who consume two or more drinks a day are 37 percent more likely to be at risk of the disease.”
It’s a hard-to-break habit, but when it comes to your health, the long-term effects of smoking can be devastating. Scientists recently studied the role of nicotine in breast cancer development and found that nicotine might promote the growth of breast cancers. They also found smoking as an adolescent might trigger cancer growth later in life.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to consider your weight, diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking habits. Making healthier decisions can reduce those risk factors by as much as 40 percent.
Talk with your physician about steps you can take toward living a healthier lifestyle.
Gina Villarreal is a medical writer affiliated with Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch.