There are a number of risk factors for breast cancer, some we can control and others we can’t. It’s important to understand the risks and also that people with risk factors don’t always get cancer. What are some ways to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer? I’m glad you asked! This article will help answer that question.
What is a risk factor?
Risk factors are things that increase the chance of getting cancer. Risk factors generally come from one of three areas:
- Genetic: The way our DNA affects cancer development (e.g. the BRCA gene)
- Environment: Things we are exposed to in the air we breathe and the food we eat that could cause cancer (e.g. chemicals, sunlight, radiation)
- Behavior: Things we do that can cause cancer (e.g. smoking, drinking alcohol, diet)
What is beyond my control?
Environmental and genetic factors are often beyond our control. The Centers for Disease Control Provide a comprehensive list, which includes:
- Getting older
- Genetic mutations
- Family history of breast cancer
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy
What can I do to decrease risk?
01 Limit or Avoid Alcohol Intake
There’s conflicting data about the health benefits of alcohol but it remains a risk factor for cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day, defined as…
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor
02 Control Weight
In the words of Beyoncé, “Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation!” With that, let’s get that physique in formation. Excess body weight not only has negative consequences such as the increased risk for diabetes and hypertension, but it is also associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. For menopausal women, reduced levels of estrogen have the potential to lower metabolism, so balancing food intake with physical activity is important. This brings us into our next prevention tip…
03 Stay Physically Active
Don’t be too cute to sweat! Exercise is linked to reducing the risk of cancer as well as improved outcomes following a cancer diagnosis. It also positively impacts many health conditions including heart disease and diabetes. The American Heart Association’s recommendation for physical activity is 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of both, spread throughout the week).
For all of my new and soon-to-be mommies out there, this one’s for you! Breastfeeding has benefits for babies and moms! Breastfeeding consistently for at least six months offers the greatest benefit according to the World Health Organization. According to wellness dietician, Lindsey Wohlford, research shows mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. And breastfeeding longer than the recommended 6 months can provide additional protection by reducing exposure to estrogen that increases breast cancer cell growth.
05 Limit or avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Going back to my menopausal women, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is commonly used to help curb symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Although this helps to relieve those symptoms, research shows that after about 4 years of exposure to HRT, the risk for breast cancer increases due to the combination of estrogen and progestin but risk declines within 5 years of discontinuing HRT. It’s important to understand that different types of HRT are associated with different risks. If HRT is needed, be sure to talk to your physician for more information on the risks associated!
That does it for our tips and tricks on how to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer! If you have any of the risk factors talk with your doctor about recommendations for screenings. Also, make sure to stay on top of early detection by self-examining your breasts! If you need help with how to properly self-examine, check out this link. For all of my superwoman survivors out there, keep your head high and wear those pink ribbons with pride!
“I believe in pink … I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn