On March 15, 2014, Manalapan health Examiner Stacey Chillemi explains to local residents what they can do to reduce their risks of breast cancer.
The facts are terrifying. One in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. A scary statistic that leaves countless women petrified that they could be the next one diagnosed with this horrifying disease.
What can you do to lower your breast cancer risk?
There are some factors you cannot control. For instance, being a woman and getting older. Two out of three women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when they are diagnosed. However, there are ways you can decrease your chances of getting breast cancer.
Seven tips to lower your risk of breast cancer
- Lose weight: Being overweight in your adulthood years raises your risk of breast cancer. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25, you need to consider losing weight. Research has shown that women who gained 55 pounds or more after age 18 have an almost 50 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who maintained their weight. What’s even scarier is that overweight women who get breast cancer have a higher risk of dying from it than leaner women do. Fatty tissue appears to contribute to higher levels of estrogen and other hormones, raising the risk of developing post-menopausal breast cancer.
- Be active: Exercising on a regular basis protects your heart and also plays a role in breast cancer prevention. It is believed that women who actively exercise five days a week for 45 to 60 minutes may gain the most breast cancer protection. Try to exercise moderately for close to an hour on a daily basis. Maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active can keep estrogen and other hormone levels in check, which has beneficial effects on insulin levels and the immune system.
- Decrease your alcohol usage: Research indicates that risk goes up with every drink. In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer analyzed more than 40 epidemiological studies and found that the equivalent of two drinks a day may boost risk by 21 percent. Doctors are still unsure how alcohol affects breast cancer. One reason could be that alcohol increases levels of circulating estrogen or other hormones in women.
- Be careful about practicing hormonal therapy for menopause: Lower hormone levels in menopause can lead to hot flashes, thin bones, and vaginal dryness. To alleviate these symptoms, women sometimes use hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Nevertheless, one type of HRT that combines the hormones estrogen and progesterone appears to increase the risk of breast cancer, especially in those who use hormones for several years. If you decide to try HRT, it is recommended that hormones be used at the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible.
- Discuss with your doctor about using oral contraceptives: Recent use of the Pill may add to breast cancer risk. However, 10 years after stopping the pill, the risk is back down to average.
- Consider breastfeeding your baby: Not only is it good for baby, it also lowers your breast cancer risk. Breastfeeding lowers estrogen levels, so the longer you do it, the better.
- Check your family history: If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you should let your doctor know. Your doctors may want to discuss preventive procedures that may help ward off your chances of developing breast cancer.
There are no guarantees in life that you may not get breast cancer, but by creating healthy lifestyle choices you decrease your chances significantly. Make sure to go for regular screenings like mammograms and clinical breast exams. The American Cancer Society continues to recommend yearly screening mammograms beginning at age 40 for women who are not at high risk of breast cancer.
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