Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Did you know that approximately 1 in every 4 women worldwide will develop breast cancer? That's a staggering number. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let's increase our awareness, shall we?*
Did you know…
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age; 2 of 3 invasive breast cancer diagnoses are found in women age 55 or older
5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary -- having one first-degree relative with breast cancer may double a woman's risk; having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk by 3-fold
Women who started menstruating early (before age 12) and/or went through menopause later (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer
Women who have no children or who had their first child after the age of 30 have a slightly higher risk have a slightly higher risk overall
Having many pregnancies and/or becoming pregnant at a young age reduces the risk overall
Breastfeeding, especially for more than a year, can lower your risk
Using combined hormone therapy after menopause increases the risk of both developing breast cancer and dying from it
Women who consume 2-3 alcoholic drinks daily have a 20% higher risk than women who don't drink alcohol
Having more fatty tissue or an overweight BMI (25 or higher), especially after menopause, can increase the risk by raising estrogen levels
Does Food Matter?
"If the only change people made was to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, cancer rates would drop by at least 20%." -American Institute for Cancer Research
Diet is considered responsible, in part, for about 30-40% of all cancers. Inflammation has been connected to the development of all cancers, so it makes sense to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet for optimal health and cancer prevention. While there is no single food that can prevent cancer, here are some things to keep in mind with regards to nutrition:
Aim to consume 10 serving of fruits and vegetables every day
Consume foods high in omega-3's (some research studies have shown that consuming fish oil can slow the growth of cancer tumors)
Avoid omega-6's; they can proliferate the growth of tumors
Consume organic when possible (pesticide-free produce, hormone-free meats). While no studies show a definitive correlation between pesticide exposure and increased risk of breast cancer, we need to be vigilant about what these chemicals could possibly be doing to our bodies.
Consume foods high in vitamin D (low vitamin D levels have been linked to increased risk)
Avoid well-done meat (the hotter and longer meat cooks, HCAs form. 17 HCA's have been linked to increased cancer risk); additionally, PAH's form in smoke produced when fat burns or drips on hot grill coals. PAH's have been linked to breast cancer.
Drink 90-120 oz of water each day
Superfoods to fight and prevent cancer: apples, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, green/red cabbage, kale, collard greens, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, rapini, carrots, cherries, cranberries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, nuts (esp walnuts), papaya, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, raspberries, seaweed, tomatoes, turnips
Super spices to fight and prevent cancer: flax, garlic, cayenne, green tea, oregano, turmeric, rosemary
Is Exercise Really That Important?
Yes! Study after study has shown that physical activity can significantly decrease the risk of developing cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends the following:
at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity (or 75 minutes of vigorous) cardiorespiratory exercise per week
limit sedentary behavior (sitting in front of computer or TV) as much as possible
There are several theories as to why this is true; with regards to breast cancer, exercise is connected to a decrease in obesity (obesity is directly linked to increased cancer rates), a healthier regulation of estrogen and progesterone, and a decrease in inflammation.
For patients currently undergoing cancer treatment, exercise has consistently shown improvements in cancer-related fatigue, body weight and composition, muscle strength and endurance, immune function, and cardiovascular fitness. For cancer patients, exercise may alleviate symptoms from cancer treatments (constipation, mental and physical fatigue, depression, muscle pain, insomnia, and lack of appetite). Just remember to start slowly and go at your own pace, do something you love, listen to your body, and check with your doctor.
While nutrition and exercise are important, the MOST important things you can do for prevention are your annual mammogram and checking your own breasts. Feel your breast and armpit monthly (at least) for any abnormalities -- remember to check up to your collarbone and neck. If something feels off, don't wait! Through early detection, the incidence of mortality significantly decreases...time is of the essence!
Here are a few helpful internet resources:
Cancer.net: a series of follow-up guidelines focused on breast and colorectal cancer
Life After Cancer Care: MD Anderson's Cancer Center website lists follow-up guidelines for 15 different cancer types (click on "Follow-Up Medical Care"
Cancer Care: provides telephone and online counseling, support groups, education, financial and co-payment assistance; all services are free of charge www.cancercare.org
Journey Forward: journeyforward.org
Livestrong Care Plan: www.livestrongcareplan.org
Cancer Hope Network: www.cancerhopenetwork.org
Feel for lumps, save your bumps, my friends.
*All information and facts above were from The American Cancer Society and the Cancer Exercise Training Institute.