October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so we would like to take this time to share important information regarding how to reduce your risk. All women have about a 12% risk for developing breast cancer at some time in their lives. There are some factors that increase risk that are out of one’s control such as genetics, age or ethnicity. But there are also many things one can do to help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight can increase risk of developing breast cancer. This is because higher levels of fat increase levels of estrogen which can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. To determine a healthy weight, women should strive for a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 20 and 25.
Regular exercise can help control blood sugar and insulin levels. This is important because excess insulin can affects how breast cells grow. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. Regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight.
Limit Alcohol Usage
Research has linked the use of alcohol to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women who consume 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol. Excessive alcohol use is also known to increase the risk of developing several other types of cancer.
Discontinue Combination Hormone Replacement Therapy
Combination Hormone Replacement Therapy which contains both estrogen and progesterone is often used for post menopausal women. However, Combination HRT increases breast cancer risk by about 75%, even when used for only a short time. For women experiencing severe post menopausal symptoms they should discuss the benefits and risks of HRT with their doctors.
Many studies have shown that smokers have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, with an even higher risk for younger, premenopausal women. Women should work with their doctors to find the best resources to help them quit such as nicotine patches or acupuncture.
Limit Exposure to Chemicals
We are exposed to chemicals every day through pesticides on our produce, BPA lining in plastic water bottles and even in household cleaners. But we can educate ourselves on the products we use to limit our exposure to the dangerous chemicals. Here are some tips to avoid exposure.
- Use your own ceramic or glass container for filtered water
- Reduce your intake of canned foods
- Use “BPA Free” plastic items
- Avoid cooking food in plastic containers or in steam/roasting bags
- Purchase organic food whenever possible
- Educate yourself on the cleaning products you use. Visit the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) website, http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/ Products are given a rating to indicate a relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in the product