8 Ways to Effectively Cut Your Risk of Breast Cancer
If you are female, you have around a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer during your lifetime. While you can’t change your family history, there are various risk factors that you can do something about to lower your chances of developing this cancer. Read on to discover the practical changes you can make to cut your risk of breast cancer.
Although smoking is most commonly associated with lung cancer, using tobacco also influences your risk of several other cancers, including breast cancer. Recent research by the American Cancer Society found that rates of breast cancer are 24% higher among women who smoke and this increases to 45% for women who smoke for more than 10 years before starting a family. While it is best to never take up smoking, quitting early is sensible based on these findings, and using Chantix can increase your chances of successfully giving up cigarettes for good.
Avoid Weight Gain
While your body weight seems to have little impact on whether you develop breast cancer before the menopause, postmenopausal cases of breast cancer appear strongly influenced by your weight, with obesity significantly increasing your risk. Carrying extra weight is likely to make you more susceptible to breast cancer by increasing levels of estrogen and insulin, two of the hormones that fuel the growth of cancerous cells. If you need to lose weight, a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet in combination with regular exercise is essential, though if you struggle to lose weight through lifestyle changes alone, your doctor may prescribe a medication to aid your efforts.
Drink Moderately if at All
Even though one alcoholic drink daily is considered a safe limit for women in terms of their general health, drinking at this level could still put you at increased risk of cancerous changes in your breasts. That is certainly what researchers at Harvard University found, with their work showing that women who drank between three and six alcoholic drinks weekly increased their likelihood of breast cancer by 15%. With this knowledge you may want to make sure you stick well within the alcohol recommendations and avoid it altogether if other factors place you at increased risk of cancer.
Lead an Active Lifestyle
Keeping physically active doesn’t just help you to lose excess pounds and keep your heart in good shape, but it can also reduce your chances of breast tumors. Indeed, a meta-analysis, which reviews the findings of previous studies, found that for each 4 hours of walking or 1 hour of running each week, women could lower their breast cancer risk by 3%. As current recommendations for physical activity advise that you need to take part in at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, following these could help to reduce your likelihood of breast cancer, though further activity on top of this would offer additional risk reduction.
Strongly Consider Breastfeeding
If you are still to have children, you may not be aware, but choosing to breastfeed them may reduce your chances of later developing breast cancer. This is backed up by research that shows you can reduce your likelihood of breast cancer by more than a quarter when you breastfeed. It is likely that the protective effect of breastfeeding is down to its positive influence on the hormones linked to breast cancer.
Take HRT with Caution
Although menopausal symptoms are unpleasant, the benefits of taking hormone replacement therapy may not outweigh the risks. This certainly appears to be the case for versions of HRT that combine estrogen and progesterone, as a long-term health study of women found that those taking this combination of hormones were 24% more likely to develop a cancerous tumor in their breast. The impact of HRT on overall hormone levels in your body is likely to explain these findings. As HRT may also increase your risk of a blood clot or stroke, you should carefully consider your decision and discuss the potential risks with your doctor before proceeding.
Get Enough Vitamin D
While the link between vitamin D and breast cancer is still an emerging area of research, there is convincing evidence that higher intakes of vitamin D may protect against breast cancer. This is relevant, as increasing numbers of us are not meeting our daily requirements for vitamin D and cases of vitamin D deficiency are rising. The best source of the vitamin remains its production within our skin when exposed to sunlight. However, this production virtually stops when using sunscreen, so allowing yourself 5 or 10 minutes of sun exposure each day before applying sun block is a good idea. Alternatively, increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin D, such as oily fish, eggs and fortified foods, such as milk and breakfast cereals, and consider a supplement, as it is difficult to meet your vitamin D needs through dietary sources alone.
Consider Including Soya in Your Diet
It is true that the advice on whether to eat soya to protect against breast cancer is not consistent, with some sources promoting its consumption, while others advising against it. This confusion stems from the fact that while lower rates of breast cancer among Asian populations is often attributed to the importance placed on soya in their diet, soya contains phytoestrogens, which have a mild estrogenic effect, raising concerns that soya may trigger cancerous changes. However, analyzing the results of previous studies showed that soya does not adversely affect your risk of breast cancer and certainly among Asian populations offers a degree of protection. If you decide to up your soya intake, you can do so by switching to soya milk and yogurts, using tofu to replace meat in dishes and adding soya beans to salads, soups and stews.