7 tips to help ward off breast cancer
October is breast cancer awareness month. Here are a few ideas to help with reducing the risk of this terrible disease.
It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, the second leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian women. One woman in 31 will die from the disease.
In 2017 alone, the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that:
- 26,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This represents 25% of all new cancer cases in women.
- 5,000 women will die from breast cancer. This represents 13% of all cancer deaths in women.
Men are also affected
Breast cancer doesn’t affect only women…
In 2017, it is estimated that 230 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 60 of them will die from the disease.
How to reduce the risk of breast cancer?
The Canadian Cancer Society suggests adopting a number of simple habits to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
1. Have a mammogram every 2 years
If you are between 50 and 69 years of age, it is recommended to get a mammogram every 2 years.
This low dose x-ray of the breast is still the most reliable screening test to help with diagnosing breast cancer.
If you are between 40 and 49 years of age
Mammograms are not offered systematically, unless there is a higher risk of breast cancer in your family.
Talk to your doctor about it to see if she recommends you getting a mammogram.
If you are 70 years of age or over
Talk to your doctor about how often you should have a mammogram.
And what about a breast self-exam?
Since 2001, self-examination of the breasts is no longer recommended by physicians. This practice is now considered inefficient as a screening tool for the disease.
Pay special attention to any changes in your breasts and the area extending from the clavicle to the underarm:
- Change in breast size or shape
- A hard or visible lump
- Inflammation in the breast or in the arm
- Ulceration or a wound
- Change in the texture or colour of the skin
2. Reduce your alcohol consumptionNumerous studies show that alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer.
If you insist on partaking, stick to one glass per day or less if you want to further reduce your risk of breast cancer.
One alcoholic drink means:
- 341 ml of beer (5%)
- 142 ml of wine (12%)
- 43 ml of spirits (40%)
Avoid mixing salty food and alcohol, because you’ll want to drink even more.
3. Healthy weight
Obesity and being overweight have often been regarded as important risk factors for breast cancer.
To find out what your ideal weight should be, talk to your physician.
If you are overweight, seek the help of health care professionals. It’s possible that your group insurance plan includes an employee assistance program that offers and/or reimburses certain services to help you improve your lifestyle habits.
Eating well and exercising regularly help maintain a healthy weight.
Not only does exercise help maintain a healthy weight, it also has an influence on hormone levels and other factors related to cancer growth in the body.
If you haven’t been physically active for a long time, refer to your physician to find out if you have any limitations.
Before you begin any regular exercise regimen after being inactive for a while, set yourself realistic and gradual goals.
To do this, it’s important to find activities you like so that you can remain motivated. Get moving together with friends or family or even as part of a workout group because more really is merrier.
5. Stop smoking
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of breast cancer.
Break the habit and, if need be, ask for help. Your body will thank you!
If you decide to quit, assistance and support is available for you at Tobacco Free Quebec at tobaccofreequebec.ca/iquitnow.
6. Assess the risk of hormone therapy with your doctor
At the onset of menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be a tempting option to alleviate hot flushes, sleep disorders and mood swings.
Take a few minutes to talk to your doctor about the risks of HRT, especially if you are at risk for breast cancer.
The problem is that post-menopausal hormones increase the level of estrogen in the body. And there is evidence that high levels of estrogen increase the chances of transforming healthy breast tissue cells into cancer cells.
For the same reason, the use of oral contraceptives with estrogen and progesterone increase somewhat the risk of breast cancer.
7. Eat foods with anti-cancer properties
A healthy diet is not a foolproof defence against breast cancer, but more and more research on the subject is trying to prove that it is.
According to Mary Marian, a nutritionist at the University of Arizona, the risk of breast cancer is lower in women who are overweight and who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables than in thin, sedentary women who do not include much fruit and vegetables in their diet.
Include the following foods and spices in your menu:
- Fish rich in omega-3s like salmon and tuna
Get into the habit of eating a variety of foods:
- Eat more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and fibre
- Drink water
- Read food labels and watch for the amount of salt and sugar that are added
- Set a goal of gradually reaching 21 to 38 g of fiber a day
- Replace one half of your meat with legumes
Gradually reduce your servings of:
- Red meat
- Processed foods
- Fried or barbecued foodsMotherhood provides protectionDid you know that pregnancy and breast-feeding protect you from breast cancer?
Carrying a child to term before the age of 30 lowers the risk of breast cancer. This effect is multiplied with each pregnancy. One of the reasons for this is that pregnancy changes the breast tissue permanently, and that protects it from cancer.
With regard to breastfeeding, it has an anti-cancer effect because it causes a change in hormones and in breast tissue.
Article written in collaboration with:
Optima Global Health