This year, almost 240,000 women in USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and close to 40,000 will die of the disease. One out of every eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime. Pretty scary statistics, but it also means that seven out of every eight women won’t get breast cancer.
Here are seven things you can do to reduce your own risk of breast cancer:
1. Exercise. Dozens of studies have found a correlation between exercise and reduced risk of breast, colon, and other cancers. Working up a sweat for at least a half hour per day, 4 times a week, does wonders. Physical exercise improves energy balance, hormone metabolism, and insulin regulation, all of which reduce the unhealthy cell production that leads to cancer. It also helps control weight, maintain healthy bones, keep muscles and joints working, and reduce the risk of death from heart disease. Find a friend and commit to motivating each other, or simply tell yourself “no more elevators or escalators.” The stairs are an excellent way to get your heart rate up and burn calories.
2. Eat a healthy diet. It is proven that diets rich in fiber, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fish reduce your risk of breast cancer, while those heavy in refined sugars and animal fats increase it. Carry healthy snacks like fresh fruit, fresh veggies, almonds, KIND bars, or yogurt with you to work, school, or travel, so that you don’t resort to fast food when the hunger pangs arrive.
3. Get at least 6 hours of sleep each night. A Japanese study showed that those who regularly had six hours of sleep or less every night were much more likely to develop breast cancer than those who got more sleep.
4. Maintain a BMI (body mass index) under 26. More than 30 percent of women are considered obese and another 30 percent are considered overweight when body mass is measured. Obesity is not just linked to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, but also to cancer. A new study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology shows that young women who are obese have a 34 percent increased risk of dying of breast cancer. Fat contains estrogen, and in young women who are premenopausal and have breast cancers with estrogen hormone growth receptors, their cancers grow at a faster rate in the presence of fat. Too many fat cells can produce the extra hormones such as estrogen and insulin growth factors that have been linked to unhealthy breast cell growth.
5. Stop smoking. Researchers at the American Cancer Society have found an increased breast cancer risk among women who smoke, especially those who start smoking before they have their first child.
6. Reduce stress. Occasional psychological stress has not been found to cause cancer, but psychological stress that lasts a long time may affect a person’s overall health and ability to cope with cancer by activating a specific gene that could compromise the body’s immune system.
7. Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol reduces the liver’s ability to metabolize (reduce the potency of and eliminate from the body) the hormone estrogen. Studies have shown that even one to two drinks a day over a long period of time could increase your risk of breast cancer. In one study, the amount of alcohol in three 4-ounce glasses of wine more than tripled the amount of estrogen in women’s bodies.