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Preventing Breast Cancer

written by Vidya Sury October 27, 2010

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As we approach the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here’s relevant information that shows how breast cancer can be prevented:
Like any cancer, breast cancer is a complex disease, and there is no sure way to protect yourself. A fair amount of breast cancer is related to environmental risk. But here are 10 things you can do to help ward off breast cancer.
Watch your BMI:
Being overweight has many negative consequences for health, and the risk of breast cancer is one of them. The effect of weight is dramatic. For a woman who weighs over 175 pounds, the chances of breast cancer are about 25 percent higher than someone who weighs 132 pounds. If there was a medication that gave us the same improvement as weight loss, we would be all over it. Strive to keep your body mass index (BMI) under 25. Two more reasons to keep your weight in check: Breast cancer is often detected at a later stage in obese women, and obese women are more likely to die from breast cancer.

Get Physical:

Moderate daily exercise reduces breast cancer risk by 15 to 25 percent. And you don’t have to become a gym rat or train for a marathon — walking 30 minutes five days a week will do the trick. To get the protective effect, walk briskly. It has to be moderate exercise – not just a stroll to the park. One way exercise may lower the risk of breast cancer is by decreasing circulating levels of estrogen in the body. While estrogen is vital for many normal body functions, increased exposure to estrogen can raise breast cancer risk.
Say Cheers with a mocktail!
The evidence that alcohol raises the risk of cancer, including breast cancer, is so strong that in 2000, the National Institutes of Health listed the consumption of alcoholic beverages as a “known human carcinogen” for the first time. The best thing is to avoid alcohol entirely or greatly limiting drinking. The more a woman drinks, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Even one drink a day increases the risk by a small amount. Women who drink two to five drinks a day are one and a half times more likely to develop breast cancer.
A healthy diet can lower your risk of breast cancer, and an unhealthy diet can increase your risk. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Use vegetable oils instead of animal fats, and avoid sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods. Certain foods offer additional protection, including whole soy, especially if it’s fermented. Soy has estrogens that attach to cells, but they don’t have the same effect as body estrogen. Instead, the natural estrogens found in soy can block body estrogen from affecting cells. Other foods that can help protect against cancer include turmeric, garlic, olive oil, green tea, and seaweed.
Say NO to hormones:
For decades, women have used hormone therapy during and after menopause to combat symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, and trouble sleeping. But recent research has shown that hormone replacement therapy
may increase the risk of breast cancer. Just how much hormone replacement may increase the risk isn’t clear, but if you don’t have symptoms at menopause, it’s a good idea to forego the hormones. However, it’s okay to use hormones if necessary to relieve unwanted menopausal symptoms. Take it for as long as you need it, but probably less than five years is reasonable.
Medication could help
Women who are over age 60 or who have a family history of breast cancer should consider taking an estrogen-blocking drug such as tamoxifen or raloxifene. Both drugs stop breast cells from being affected by estrogen. Studies have shown that tamoxifen reduces the risk of breast cancer by about 50 percent and raloxifene reduces the risk by about 38 percent in women at higher risk for the disease. Because there are also risks associated with these drugs, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons.
Although smoking is a factor in lung and other cancers, its role in breast cancer has been unclear. But a recent review by experts showed that both active smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increase breast cancer risk in premenopausal women. The bottom line is that breast cancer is just one of many reasons to nix the cigarettes.
Numerous studies have shown that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer. The fact that women in developed countries tend to breastfeed for shorter periods or skip it completely is a major contributor to the high rates of breast cancer in these countries.  When a woman is breastfeeding, her body produces higher levels of the hormone prolactin, which lowers the levels of estrogen. The longer a woman breastfeeds over a lifetime, the more protected she is against breast cancer.
Take part in clinical trials
Dr. Oz encourages women to consider participating in clinical trials studying ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer. For example, ongoing research is studying whether soy, vitamin D, green tea, and other supplements or foods affect breast cancer risk. By participating in a clinical trial, you have a chance to help all women, and you may end up lowering your own breast cancer risk at the same time. And there’s another benefit. Without question, individuals get better care if they’re in clinical trials.
Walk the walk:
Take a long walk. Wear a pink ribbon. Attend a fashion show. Organizations that support breast cancer research host hundreds of events every year to raise money for research efforts. One way to improve your own chances against breast cancer is to support these efforts, and the feeling of community can have a positive effect on your overall health.  You count. You matter. You’re making a difference

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