There are multiple things you can do (or stop doing) to improve your breast health. Around 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. Familiarize yourself with all the information surrounding breast cancer so you can make informed decisions about your breasts.
One of the most important pieces of information you can have is your family history. If your mother or sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer, then you have almost double the risk of diagnosis than somebody with no family history [106-108]. The risk only increases for those who have strong family histories of breast cancer. Consequently, so does the strength to fight.
Get a mammogram
Because mammograms are the most effective screening tool for breast cancer, it is important to know when to get one and how often to get re-screened. This figure from The Susan G. Komen Foundation shows various recommendations from three major health organizations for women with average risk. If you are at a higher risk, you can follow this link to receive more information.
Maintain a healthy weight
When you are overweight, it puts you at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and various types of cancer. If you are a woman after menopause and overweight, then you are at an increased risk for breast cancer. When your ovaries no longer produce most of your estrogen (post-menopausal), fat tissues produce estrogen instead. If you have large amounts of fat tissue, you have higher levels of estrogen which increases your breast cancer risk.
Stay physically fit
It is important to stay in shape to keep from gaining weight and increasing your risk of breast cancer. There are multiple studies linking high-levels of physical activity to lower risks in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancer. However, there is a stronger correlation between physically active post-menopausal women and a lower risk of being diagnosed [12-15] than with pre-menopausal women. Looking at evidence as a whole, regular exercise lowers your risk of diagnosis by 10-20 percent [91-94].
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Last week we explored the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet and talked about the multiple health advantages of this diet, especially in relation to breast cancer. In a study published by the International Journal of Cancer, post-menopausal estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer was 40% less prevalent in women ages 55 to 69 who closely followed the Mediterranean diet. Key components of this diet are keeping with a mostly plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts), using olive oil, adding herbs and spices, and limiting red meat.
Reduce drinking & quit smoking
Because alcohol can change the way your body metabolizes estrogen, it can cause blood estrogen levels to rise. In a meta-analysis of 98 studies on breast cancer and drinking, it was found that women who drank alcohol were 11 percent more likely than nondrinkers to be diagnosed with breast cancer . Women who drink more than two to three drinks per day have a 20 percent higher risk than those who do not drink alcohol . In a study that compared causes of death among four groups of women with breast cancer, the highest risk of death from breast cancer was women who smoked heavily. This included women who were former smokers and who quit fewer than 5 years before their diagnosis. Not to mention, smoking increases your risk of lung cancer.
K N O W Y O U R B R E A S T S
It is important to know what is normal for your ladies. Because they can change size and density, and even hurt during your period, know what is normal for you. If it is normal for them to feel denser and a little swollen before or during your period, know that. If it is normal for them to be extremely sensitive before your period, know that. So, if something irregular happens, you will know. It is also good to give yourself a monthly exam. This way if anything suspicious arises, you can call your doctor immediately, instead of waiting until your yearly exam.