October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and everywhere you look they talk about early detection with mammograms and self-exams. Very important stuff! But.. What about prevention??? Shouldn’t we be talking about how to prevent this terrible disease just as much as detecting it? Isn’t prevention just as important as detection? Yes inevitably there will be a percentage of the population that will get breast cancer whether they do all the right things. But that is a small percentage.
The following statistics are taken from The American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014:
- A woman living in the US has a 12.3%, or 1 in 8, lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. In the 1970s the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer was 1 in 11. This increase in risk is due to longer life expectancy, as well as increases in breast cancer incidence due in part to changes in reproductive patterns, menopausal hormone use, the rising prevalence of obesity, and increased detection through screening. Lifetime risk reflects an average woman’s risk over an entire lifetime.
- During 2006-2010, the median age at the time of breast cancer diagnosis was 61. This means that half of women who developed breast cancer were 61 years of age or younger at the time of diagnosis.
- In 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women, as well as an estimated 64,640 additional cases of in situ breast cancer.
- In 2013, approximately 39,620 women are expected to die from breast cancer. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.
- In 2013, about 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 men will die from the disease
- Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most common cancer among US women, accounting for 29% of newly diagnosed cancers.
- It is estimated that 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases result from inherited mutations, including those in the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. These mutations are present in less than 1% of the general population, but occur more often in certain ethnic groups such as those of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent.
Now that you have the recent statistics here are ways to help prevent becoming part of them:
1. Do Not Smoke
Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in pre-menopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
2. Keep Yourself at a Reasonable Weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer.
Research suggests that increased physical activity, even when begun later in life, reduces overall breast-cancer risk by about 10 percent to 30 percent. All it takes is moderate exercise like a 30-minute walk five days a week to get this protective effect.
4. Eat Healthy
Embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods. Eat lean protein such as fish or chicken breast and eat red meat in moderation, if at all. Eat whole grains. Choose vegetable oils over animal fats
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables hasn’t been consistently shown to offer protection from breast cancer and, a low-fat diet appears to offer only a slight reduction in the risk of breast cancer.
However, eating a healthy diet may decrease your risk of other types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight — a key factor in breast cancer prevention.
5. Limit Alcohol
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol — including beer, wine or liquor — limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.
6. Do Not Take Hormones Especially Containing Estrogen
Do not take prescription estrogens unless medically indicated. Lifetime exposure to estrogen plays a fundamental role in the development of breast cancer. Also avoid estrogen-like compounds found in environmental pollutants, such as pesticides and industrial chemicals.
7. Take Your Supplements Daily
A multivitamin, 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C, 200-400 IUs of vitamin E, and pharmaceutical grade fish oil. If you live in the colder climates like Canada you probably need vitamin D as well. Also take 200 mcg of the mineral selenium or eat one to two Brazil nuts as an alternative. If you have a chronic medical condition or take prescription drugs, consult your physician first.
8. Maintain a Positive Mental Outlook
Engage in self-nurturing behaviors regularly. Develop rich, warm and mutually beneficial relationships with family and friends. Get adequate sleep (7-8 hours per night). The mind-body associations with breast cancer are significant.
9. Do Not Keep Your Cell Phone in Breast Pocket or Bra
They have proven that the EMF – ‘electro-magnetic field’ from the cell phones could play a role in brain tumors. It is only a matter of time that they will show that keeping your cell phone in your breast pocket or bra like so many young people do these days is one reason why we are seeing breast cancer in younger patients. Don’t do it!
10. Mammograms and Self-Exams
And of course don’t forget to check yourself regularly so you know what your breasts feel like. Then you will know if you feel something different you can get it checked right away. Here in Canada you get your first screening mammogram at 50. Where ever you live please do go get that first screening mammogram. It can save your life. It also gives them a baseline to judge all future tests. This is very important.
I hope this is helpful.
Have a Great Day!
Dr. Ann’s 10 – Steps to Prevent Breast Cancer by Ann Kulze, MD
The Mayo Clinic: Breast Cancer Prevention: How to reduce the Risk?
The American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014
- Breast cancer prevention: The importance of early detection (ecostore.co.nz)
- What You Probably Don’t Know About Breast Cancer Prevention (drdiffrant.com)
- Breast Cancer Awareness (upennchbr.wordpress.com)