Seven lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of breast cancer
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease where cancerous cells form in the tissues of a breast. It’s the second most common type of cancer for people with breasts in the United States.
While those with a family history of breast cancer are considered higher risk, only 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. Because of this, breast cancer prevention is important for everyone—not just those with a family history of breast cancer.
Is breast cancer preventable? Science says it may be.
Cancer is a group of related diseases that are affected by genes, lifestyle, and the environment around us. While factors like family history can’t be changed, it is possible to implement lifestyle changes and other protective measures that can lower your risk for cancers like breast cancer.
Lifestyle changes may lower risk factors—even for individuals who are already at high risk. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help protect your overall health and may help reduce your risk for cancers like breast cancer.
Seven lifestyle protective factors that may help prevent breast cancer.
Reduce alcohol and eliminate smoking.
As your consumption increases, so does your risk. Limit yourself to no more than one drink a day. Similarly, smoking increases your risk factors for cancer.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Eating a wide variety of healthy foods, staying active, and getting your Z’s are a great place to start. If you find it challenging to maintain a healthy weight or are concerned that you may have an eating disorder, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.
Breast cancer can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity. Aim for a mix of cardio to increase your heart rate, and strength training to help strengthen your muscles. If you have trouble motivating yourself to be active, consider adopting a rescue dog or joining a local fitness club.
Northern Colorado is home to fantastic hiking, biking, and fishing. Check out some AFM-approved activities here.
Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy, and if you do opt for hormone therapy, aim for low-dose options.
Eat a healthy diet.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s also the start of harvest season—there’s no better time to eat local, fresh, and healthy foods. Prioritize a diet rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and try to reduce or eliminate red meats, processed foods, and refined sugars. This may mean eating at home instead of eating out, and packing a healthy meal to bring to work. And be sure to drink plenty of water.
Prioritize your mental health and wellbeing.
Staying healthy and active starts with good mental health. Consider incorporating stress reduction techniques into your daily routine, and talk to your primary care physician if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or mood regulation.
Stay on top of your breast exams.
While incorporating healthy lifestyle techniques can reduce your risk for cancer, you still need to stay proactive about scheduling regular exams. Exams like the 3D mammograms offered at Associates at Family Medicine a member of Village Medical have even been found to detect breast cancer earlier than traditional mammograms. Here are some general guidelines from the National Breast Cancer Foundation on what exams to schedule, and how often.
|Mammogram||Yearly||40+, or 10 years before a relative was diagnosed with breast cancer|
What does the future look like for breast cancer?
New ways to prevent cancer are being studied. Scientists, doctors, and researchers are examining the use of things like risk-reducing surgery and medicine to treat pre-cancerous conditions. Until these options are widely understood and available, it’s important to reduce your risk factors and increase your protective factors.
Schedule your well-woman exam today at Associates in Family Medicine – A member of Village Medical
According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and in a localized stage, the 5-year survival rate is 99%. So even if you live a life relatively free of risk factors, it’s important to stay vigilant in detecting breast cancer. Check your breasts frequently for changes in your breasts or new lumps and speak with your doctor about your timeline for screenings and mammograms.