8 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Alt Title: Want to Prevent Breast Cancer? 8 Strategies to Help You Succeed
Did you know that breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer? Over the course of a lifetime, about one in every eight women in the United States will develop the disease. Fortunately, thanks to our increasing knowledge of the disease, it’s also one of the most detectable and treatable kinds of cancer.
How to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk
These strategies and lifestyle choices all have the ability to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer:
- Get screened regularly. Though it won’t explicitly prevent you from getting breast cancer, proactive, regular screenings can catch any possible cancer early in its development, to maximize your chances of getting successful treatment. Digital mammography technology makes the screening process much faster and more comfortable, and is far more accurate for diagnosing cancer in women under 50.
- Get to (and stay at) a healthy weight. Research shows that obese and overweight women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer, so do what you can to stay at a healthy weight. Eating smaller portions of food and exercising regularly, along with eating lots of vegetables and lean proteins, can help you keep your weight in check.
- Eat a healthy diet. Incidentally, one of the most important factors for losing and maintaining your weight qualifies as a prevention strategy by itself: eating a healthy diet. Unhealthy dietary patterns, like eating lots of junk food, drinking lots of soft drinks, and abusing alcohol, can all increase your chances of getting cancer. Try to focus on eating healthier meals, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Keep sugary foods, desserts, and alcohol in moderation.
- Exercise regularly. While you’re working on maintaining your weight, make sure you exercise regularly as well. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with a higher risk of cancer, while exercising regularly can lower that risk. Try to exercise several times a week, including both cardiovascular exercises and resistance training.
- Know your personal risk factors. You should also know your personal risk factors, which are harder to control. For example, if you have a family history of breast cancer, you’ll be more likely to develop breast cancer at some point in your life. If you have certain types of gene mutations, like BRCA1 or BRCA2, you may also be at increased risk. If you are at high personal risk, your doctor may be able to prescribe you certain medications to lower your risk.
- Minimize your radiation exposure. In general, the radiation emitted by X-rays, airport screening equipment, and other ionizing radiation tests is at a low enough level that it shouldn’t affect your health. However, repeated exposure could increase your risk of breast cancer. Make sure you understand the risks of these screenings and treatments, and talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors.
- Reduce hormone therapy. Long-term use of estrogen and progestin therapy can increase your risk of getting cancer by 24 percent. These types of therapy are often used to manage symptoms of menopause, so if you’re taking these or other medications, consider limiting your dosage or seeking alternative medication to manage your symptoms.
- Breastfeed. Though it may seem strange, breastfeeding can also lower your risk of breast cancer—even when done for longer than the recommended six months. Scientists suspect that this is because breastfeeding stimulates hormonal changes that end up delaying the onset of menstrual periods, which reduces your overall exposure to hormones like estrogen. It also stimulates the shedding of old breast tissue and the production of new tissue, potentially ridding your body of DNA-damaged cells and reducing your cancer risk in yet another way.
Spreading the Word
With these habits and choices, you should be able to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer several times over—but don’t keep them to yourself! Raising awareness of breast cancer, and awareness of how to prevent it from forming, can lead to the reduced prevalence of the disease. Keep your mother, sisters, cousins, and friends in the loop, and talk about the strategies you’re using to keep breast cancer out of your life.
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