About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point during her life, According to the National Cancer Institute. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member has had breast or ovarian cancer.
Tips for Reducing Breast Cancer Risk
- Move More: “Nearly 30 studies have shown that women who exercise at moderate to vigorous levels for three or more hours per week reduce their risk of getting breast cancer by 30 percent to 40 percent” according to Dr. Anne Tiernan, Cancer Research Center internist and epidemiologist. The risk reduction effect from exercise is equal to the effects seen by taking the medication tamoxifin, without the added side effects.
- Get Screened: Early detection leads to the best results in treatment of breast cancer. Perform monthly self-exams and get routine mammograms as recommended by your health care provider.
According to the American Cancer Society, general guidelines for finding breast cancer early include: getting mammograms include:
- Mammograms: Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
- Breast Exams: Breast exams done by your doctor or nurse should be part of a health exam about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older.
- Brest Self-Awareness: Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their doctor or nurse. Breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s.
- Maintain A Healthy Weight: Overweight and obese women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight or obese also can increase the risk of the breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.
- Eat the Right Foods: A diet loaded with vegetables and fruit provides antioxidants that work to protect body cells from damage and can help reduce risk for cancer. New research is highlighting the protective effects of some specific plant foods.
- Soy: The decades old debate over the benefits and risks of soy and breast cancer risk may have just been settled. Isoflavones from soy may reduce risk for breast cancer according to a very recent review of studies conducted by L. Valladares and colleagues of the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, Chile. Soy foods reduce risk of breast cancer according to epidemiological studies by competing with estrogen for estrogen receptors that are involved in the development of hormone positive tumors. Soy isoflavones from supplements may have the same effect, but speak with your health care provider before using soy supplements.
- Mushrooms: Emerging research suggests that compounds in mushrooms suppress the effects of an enzyme (aromatase) that is used by the body to make estrogen. Hormone blocking is one medical treatment used to reduce circulating estrogen levels, an important treatment for addressing hormone-dependent breast cancers.
While mushrooms are very low in fat, they do contain a fatty acid (conjugated linoleic acid – CLA) that is usually found exclusively in animal products like meat, milk and cheese. CLA gives mushrooms, such as button and crimini, their cancer-prevention/cancer-curing status by binding with enzymes that increase estrogen. This action prevents estrogen dependent tumors from growing in healthy women. In women who have existing tumors, blocking the estrogen effectively cuts off the tumor’s food supply and the tumor stops growing.
- Whole Grains: Refined carbohydrates (sugars, starches, white flour) have higher Glycemic Index scores which are associated with greater risk for Breast Cancer. Choose whole wheat or whole grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta. Aim for grains with the words “whole grain” (i.e. whole wheat) listed first in the ingredients and/or 3g or more fiber per serving.
- Flaxseed: Studies of postmenopausal women showed that flaxseed supplementation improved the ratio of hormones that are thought to help prevent breast cancer. Benefits from flaxseed come from the lignans in the hull of the seed, so using whole, ground flaxseed is recommended. Flaxseed may also help with menopausal symptoms. Since flaxseed has laxative effects, start use slowly, increasing to about 1-2 tablespoons per day and can be sprinkled on salads or yogurts, mixed in cereals, added to baked goods, or blended in smoothies.
Note: Women with a history of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer should discuss the use of dietary phytoestrogens from foods such as flax and soy with their health care provider.
- Use BPA free Plastics: Emerging scientific studies suggest that many plastics may leach chemicals if they’re scratched or heated. Research also strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in these products, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may cause cancer in people. Use glass containers for reheating foods in the microwave and stainless steel bottles for take along water and other beverages.
It’s important to work with your doctor when coming up with your personalized healthcare plan.