Breast cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer in women. The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
Studies consistently show that increased physical activity is linked to lowering breast cancer risk. It’s thought that physical activity regulates hormones including estrogen and insulin, which can fuel breast cancer growth. Fat cells produce estrogen, and high levels of estrogen have been linked to certain cancers. Working out can shrink the size of fat cells, so your body pumps out less estrogen. Regular exercise also helps women stay at a healthy weight, which also helps regulate hormones and helps keep the immune system healthier. Even older women need to be concerned about estrogen, because of it being produced by fat cells post-menopause.
There is no magic number of hours a woman should exercise to prevent or lower the risk of breast cancer. However, the American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spread throughout each week. This activity is in addition to your usual routine at home and work, such as walking from your car and climbing a flight of stairs.
Any kind of cardio will do, so hop on your bike, dance, or walk in nature. If your time is limited, increase the intensity and go for a jog, swim or aerobics.
Excessive light exposure, including artificial indoor lighting, after darkness inhibits melatonin production. Therefore staying up late can result in greater exposure to light.
Melatonin is only released in the dark, hence the name “Dracula of hormones”. Research suggests melatonin may help regulate estrogen. Another reason to get seven to eight hours of zzzz.
Eating a healthy diet, filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors, is among AICR's Recommendations for Cancer Protection.
A large and long-term study suggests that women who eat over five and a half servings of fruits and vegetables daily have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who eat two and a half servings or fewer.
A serving is defined as one cup of raw leafy vegetables, half a cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or half a cup of chopped or cooked fruits.
The effect may be due to the fact that produce tends to be rich in carotenoids, natural pigments that often serve as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, or substances that destroy or damage cell membranes.
The USDA advises that you fill half your plate with produce.
Loco for Cocoa?
Quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is actually nutritious: It is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and other minerals.
We do know that flavanols in cocoa beans, an ingredient in chocolate, are antioxidants, meaning that they may reduce damage to cells. Damaged cells can lead to cancer development.
Researchers have discovered a compound in dark chocolate that may fight fast-growing cancers. "The compound interacts with an enzyme, which causes cancerous cells to die but leaves normal cells alone," explains Richard Pestell, M.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University.
What does this mean for you and your dessert choices? Try small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. It generally has less sugar and saturated fat than milk chocolate or other kinds of chocolate. It may give your heart some benefit too.
However, dark chocolate is still candy, and it still has extra calories, sugar, and fat...
...Eat it sparingly.
Research shows that drinking alcoholic beverages of any kind, increases a woman's risk of breast cancer. Alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen. This can cause blood estrogen levels to rise. These higher estrogen levels may in turn, increase the risk of breast cancer.
Studies suggest women should limit their alcohol intake to less than 3 drinks per week. New studies suggest that women who drink 3 to 6 drinks per week of any type of alcohol have a 15% increase in their risk.
Make it an occasion not a routine.
Between “doing” and sleeping, take the time to “just be”. It is calming, creates peace and good for your health. Some studies have indicated various psychological factors may be linked to increased risk for cancer. Apparent links could arise in several ways. For example, people under stress may develop certain behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol, all which may increase a person’s risk.
Check out this blogpost for quick tips to tame your tension.
The National Cancer Institute recommends being familiar with how your breasts look and feel, even in teenage years. This allows you to spot any changes so you can report them to your doctor. Notice changes in size, shape and skin texture, as well as checking for discharge, rashes or lumps.
It’s highly recommended for women under 40 to complete a monthly self-breast examination as screenings such as mammograms or ultrasounds are usually not completed with this age group. It’s suggested the best time of the month for self-exams is right after your period, when breasts are not swollen or tender.
Normal breast tissue feels a little lumpy and gritty. But if you feel a lump or bump that's different, that hadn't been there before, or that doesn't go away after your period, consult your medical provider.
Most already have this on their to-do list, but there is a more compelling reason to watch the number on the scale. Extra pounds equals an increase in estrogen production. This higher risk is because fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body.
To protect yourself, stay within the healthy range for your height. One way to help determine your ideal weight is to find your body-mass index (BMI).
While most breast cancers develop after menopause, extra pounds from your 20s and 30s can increase risk. This does NOT mean young women should obsess about weight, but a healthy approach is key to boosting lifelong breast health. This is especially important after menopause.
Get familiar with your family’s health history. Breast cancer risk doubles when a mother, sister, or daughter is diagnosed, and triples when more than one relative is diagnosed. It is encouraged that high-risk women consult a doctor for accurate risk assessments and prevention options.
Clinical breast exams should be completed in addition to self-breast exams. Recommendations vary by age.
A clinical breast exam (CBE) every three years is the most recommended screening for women in their 20s and 30s, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). They are usually performed by an OB/GYN at regular appointments/physicals. If a family history of breast cancer exists, talk to your provider about when you should start getting regular mammograms or MRIs. Be sure to tell them which relatives have had breast cancer and also at what age they first developed it.
The ACS recommends that women get a yearly mammogram screening starting at age 40. If you haven't yet, discuss your risk factors and lifestyle choices with your doctor to determine the best schedule for you. Clinical breast exams should be yearly.
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-----THIS INFORMATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PERSONALIZED MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT WITH A HEALTH-CARE PROFESSIONAL. THE USE OF ANY INFORMATION PROVIDED IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK. -----