Breast Cancer – How To Reduce Your Risk Now!
The very thought of having breast cancer is enough to strike fear into the hearts of most women. However, while certain risk factors, such as family history, cannot be altered, there are still steps that can be taken to endeavour to prevent breast cancer developing in the first place. Here’s how YOU could aim to reduce your risk of contracting this terrifying disease.
1. Limit Your Alcohol Intake.
Does alcohol cause breast cancer? Well, research strongly suggests that if women limit themselves to less than one drink each day they are, in turn, limiting their risk of developing this disease. Apparently, even a small amount of alcohol drank on a regular basis is believed to increase a woman’s chances of contracting breast cancer.
By all means enjoy an occasional glass of wine, or your favourite alcoholic tipple but do try to remain within the recommended limits as the risk to your health just isn’t worth it!
2. Don’t Smoke.
Growing evidence would strongly suggest that women who do not smoke have a lower breast cancer risk. A woman’s risk increases, however, if she does partake in this unhealthy habit, particularly when premenopausal.
Research also indicates that there could even be a link between high exposure to second-hand smoke and breast cancer risk in women who are postmenopausal.
Whatever age you are, lots of help is available to assist you in quitting smoking. By doing so, you should reduce your risk of contracting breast cancer AND be healthier to boot! Why not have a chat with your GP who will point you in the right direction in giving up this unhealthy habit. You should not regret it.
3. Get Physical!
A great way of reducing the risk of breast cancer is to remain physically active.
Sufficient exercise helps to sustain a healthy weight and thus reduces the risk of breast cancer. However, just how much physical activity is needed? The answer to that is at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic exercise, per week, for healthy adults. Those who prefer more vigorous aerobic exercise, however, only need complete 1 1/2 hours per week. Whichever you choose, you still need to do some strength training at least twice per week as well.
4. Watch your Waistline.
Obese and overweight ladies (whose body mass index is above 25) appear to be at a higher risk of breast cancer than females who are of a healthy weight, particularly after the menopause.
The increased risk is due to fat cells making oestrogen and the more fat cells, the more oestrogen a woman will have in her body, which in turn can prompt breast cancers to grow and develop.
Interestingly, where fat is stored in the body also plays a part in a woman’s breast cancer risk. For example, women who store fat around their hips and thighs may be at less risk than those who store the same amount of fat around their waists. Wheresoever excess weight is carried, however, it STILL needs to be lost.
5. Do Breastfeed your baby.
It is true that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk. In fact, the longer you continue to breastfeed the more protective an effect you should achieve.
As both pregnancy and lactation decrease a woman’s oestrogen levels (80% of cancers are fuelled by this hormone), her risk of getting breast cancer decreases each time she is pregnant and while she nurses her baby.
The very act of breastfeeding could bring about changes within the breast cells which may increase their resistance to mutation.
6. Limit duration and dosage of Hormone Therapy.
Yes, there is a link between hormone therapy and breast cancer. It is understood that combination hormone therapy, undertaken for between three to five years or more, does increase breast cancer risk.
Should you be undergoing hormone therapy due to the menopause, you would be advised to discuss alternative options with your GP. In fact, menopausal symptoms could be well-managed with medication and other non-hormonal therapies.
7. Limit your exposure to radiation & pollution in the environment.
Certain methods of medical imaging, like computerised tomography, does involve the use of radiation in high doses.
While much more research is necessary, evidence would suggest that exposure to radiation and breast cancer are linked.
Having tests which involve high levels of radiation only when essential, should help decrease a woman’s risk of contracting the deadly disease of breast cancer.
As ever, your GP should be able to give you the right advice in this respect.
8. Be Vigilant.
It is essential that you remain vigilant when it comes to the detection of breast cancer. Should you notice any differences whatsoever in your breasts like changes in the skin, a lump or discharge from your nipples, then do not hesitate in seeking medical advice straight away.
It is also wise to seek your GP’s advice as to when to start having mammograms and indeed, any other screenings relevant to your age and medical history.
Remember that any early warning signs of breast cancer, treated soon enough, can help save lives!
9. Look at your Lifestyle (particularly if you work shifts).
Danish research has claimed that ladies who work night shifts three times per week for six or more years may increase their risk of getting breast cancer by two-fold. That said, more research needs to be carried out to validate this claim.
Shift workers need not panic, however, as it is both inactivity and poor eating habits, which are most common in shift-workers, that are unhealthy – not necessarily the shift itself. Nevertheless, it is important women look at their overall lifestyles, irrespective of what hours they work.
10. Stay Safe With Statins.
It is indeed wise to keep cholesterol at a healthy level. However, research would suggest that taking statins to reduce cholesterol, for ten years or more, could increase a woman’s risk of contracting invasive ductal carcinoma, otherwise known as IDC (the commonest of breast cancers) by an alarming 50%.
The short-term use of statins can, indeed, be protective against breast cancer. However, taking them in the longer term could, in fact, damage particular chemical pathways which in turn may lead to tumour growth. Patients taking statins, however, should never stop taking them without speaking to their GP first.
The best way of lowering one’s cholesterol levels is via a healthy diet and lifestyle as this should lead to as healthier you overall!
11. Supplement with Fish Oil.
A six-year study, involving some 35,000 females, concluded that postmenopausal women taking fish oil supplements reduced their risk of getting IDC, the commonest form of breast cancer, by a significant percent.
Some researchers are of the opinion that fish oils can help prevent inflammation within the body, which could lower the risk of breast cancer developing. It has to be said, however, that as encouraging as these findings are, they do not, as yet, provide concrete evidence that the taking of fish oil supplements can prevent this disease.
The above said, should you decide to take a fish oil supplement for general health enhancement, always adhere to the manufacturer’s instruction and if in doubt, chat to your GP before making a purchase.
12. Ensure your diet includes enough fibre.
Research has shown that in the United Kingdom people, in general, only consume 12 grammes of fibre in a day. However, a study of 35,000 women showed that those taking 30 grammes per day, in comparison to those who ate 20 grammes or less, had a staggering 50% less risk of contracting breast cancer.
Some studies suggest that the protective effect against breast cancer that fibre may provide is due to its ability to bind to oestrogen, an excess of which can lead to the development of breast cancer.
You can easily boost your intake of daily fibre by adding brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and wholemeal bread and cereals to your diet. Furthermore, adding peas, beans and lentils to soups, stews and stir fries would also help increase your fibre intake.
13. Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
Research suggests there is a link between vitamin D and cancer prevention. Ideally, the level of Vitamin D in your blood ought to be higher than 50 ng/ml. Furthermore, levels between 70 and 100 ng/ml may radically reduce breast cancer risk.
The science behind this is because Vitamin D affects the very structure of epithelial cells. Now it is a substance known as E-cadherin, which has glue-like properties, which hold these cells together and give them structure. Without sufficient Vitamin D, however, this structure collapses, leading to cell proliferation which, if it gets out of control, can result in the development of cancer.
Safe exposure to sunlight is a great way of increasing Vitamin D levels, as is including Vitamin D rich foods in your diet in a healthy and balanced way.
14. Do you really want breast implants?
Scientific research has concluded that women who undergo breasts implants put themselves at an increased risk of getting breast cancer by a staggering 38%.
While there is no evidence to suggest that breast implants themselves cause cancer, their very presence could mask developing tumours on mammograms. Therefore, when the cancer is finally diagnosed, it is more advanced and potentially harder to treat. Are they worth the risk – really?
15. Ask your GP about Aspirin.
Research suggests that taking aspirin could not only lower breast cancer risk but may even reduce the possibility of it spreading. Women should not, however, start taking aspirin on a regular basis without seeking the advice of their GP first.
Although research is encouraging, for certain individuals aspirin can bring about the most severe of side effects, like internal bleeding. However, should you get your doctor’s go-ahead, always make sure you eat something before taking aspirin, as this will line the stomach and reduce the possibility of bleeding.
16. Slash the Sugar!
Does sugar feed breast cancer? Well, research would suggest that sugar and breast cancer risk are indeed connected because sugar increases breast density and as this rises, so does breast cancer risk.
The consumption of sugar has triplicated over the past half century. Sadly, it would appear that excessive eating of the “white stuff” has led to a number of health problems, of which breast cancer is but one of them.
Fortunately, the density of breasts is not fixed and can be modified. Reducing your intake of sugar is one way of doing this and could provide further benefits, such as reducing the risk of other chronic diseases and enhancing your health in general.
17. Risk Reducing Treatments.
If your breast cancer risk assessment is felt to be high, thankfully treatments are now available to reduce your risk of contracting this disease. Your age, genetic testing and medical history will all be taken into account when determining how high your risk is.
Medication and surgery are the two most important ways (currently) in helping decrease a woman’s chances of getting cancer of the breast.
Surgery which removes the breasts is called a Mastectomy. If you are deemed to be at high risk, then a Mastectomy would take away as much of your breast tissue as is possible. By doing so, it could reduce your risk of contracting this deadly disease up to a staggering 90%.
Tamoxifen and Raloxifene are both effective medications currently available on the NHS to women who are believed to be at high risk of getting this disease. As ever, your GP is the best person to advise you as to the negatives and positives of these drugs and as to whether or not they would be suitable for yourself.
Further Food For Thought.
Can your diet help prevent breast cancer?
There very well may a link between diet and cancer prevention. Generally speaking, consuming a healthy diet may help decrease the risk of certain types of cancer, as well as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Interestingly, however, it has been found that women who consume the “Meditteranean Diet” and supplement it with both mixed nuts and extra virgin olive oil, may reduce their risk of getting cancer of the breast.
While there is not, as yet, any exact diet to prevent breast cancer, the Meditteranean diet may be the best diet to follow for breast cancer risk reduction. The reason for this is because it is based mainly on breast cancer-fighting foods, such as those which are plant based, like vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes and wholegrains. It also includes healthy fats, such as olive oil instead of butter and favours fish rather than red meat. It is, therefore, conducive to maintaining a healthy weight which, in itself, could help reduce a woman’s risk of getting many types of cancer.
Do birth control pills cause breast cancer?
Birth control pills before 1985 tended to have higher dosages of oestrogen than contraceptives available today which, as a result, slightly increased breast cancer risk, particularly in younger women.
The above-said studies have revealed that a decade after stopping taking contraceptive pills, a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer went back to the same level of a lady who had never used contraceptives at any time in her life. As far as today’s contraceptive pills are concerned, current evidence doesn’t suggest they would increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
Why should women maintain a positive outlook when assessing their breast cancer risk? Consider the following:
Many risk factors cannot be changed when it comes to getting this disease. However, by evaluating their lifestyles and making any necessary modifications, research would suggest that women should, nevertheless, be able to reduce their risk to some degree.
The medical profession is continuing to make strides in positively fighting breast cancer via early diagnosis, medication and surgical intervention.
Last but certainly not least, daily positive thinking may reduce stress levels and that in itself can improve our health immensely!
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