It’s October, which means it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! This is a great time to educate yourself about causes of breast cancer and ways to decrease your risk. Risks vary based on every individual and their family history. However, there are some preventative actions you can take to lower your overall risk.
Mammograms can detect breast cancer at its earliest stages. Mammograms can even detect breast cancer before you can feel a lump in your breast. Women should start getting annual mammograms at the age of 40. Since mammograms can detect breast cancer at such an early stage, they help to greatly reduce the number of breast cancer deaths. If you have a family history of breast cancer, consult with your health care provider about when you should start screenings. Because family history significantly increases your risk for the disease, you might start getting annual mammograms as early as age 30, depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce your risk by keeping you at a healthy weight. Women who eat a low-fat diet may decrease their risk of first-time breast cancer. For women who have had breast cancer in the past, maintaining a low-fat diet can help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity can decrease your risk of breast cancer. Exercising helps maintain a healthy body weight, which lowers the risk of breast cancer. Don’t think you have time for 150 minutes a week? Break it up. Stay active for 20 minutes per day by taking your dog for a walk or going on a bike ride with your kids. Even smaller doses of exercise add up. For example, jog in place during the commercials of your favorite TV show.
4. Watch Your Weight
Your risk of breast cancer greatly increases if you are overweight or obese. This is especially true if you gain weight as an adult or post menopause. After menopause, estrogen comes from fat tissue instead of coming from the ovaries before menopause. More body fat increases the estrogen levels, increasing your risk for breast cancer.
5. Limit Hormone Therapy
Combined hormone therapy prescribed to menopausal women increases the risk of breast cancer. Combined hormone therapy is the prescription of both estrogen and progesterone. Women who are only prescribed estrogen do not seem to increase breast cancer risks. Fortunately, 5 years after ceasing combined hormone therapy, the risk returns to normal.
6. Don’t Smoke
Recent studies have shown that there is a link between smoking and increased risk for breast cancer. This is especially true in young women who have been smoking for over 10 years. If you are not a smoker, do not start. If you are a smoker, consider utilizing the abundant resources available to break the habit.
7. Breast Feed
Although difficult to study, some research shows that women who breastfeed their babies for a year to a year and a half have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who do not breast feed.
8. Avoid Exposure To Radiation
Radiation can increase your risk of breast cancer. Many fear the effects of chest X-rays and mammograms. However, the doses required for mammograms are very small. When it comes to X-rays, discuss the needs for each X-ray with your health care provider. Typically, the benefits outweigh the harmful effects of the radiation. Express any concerns you have with your health care provider.
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Breast cancer can be a life threatening disease. Lower your risks and catch breast cancer in its earliest stages by receiving annual mammograms, conducting breast self-exams and improving your overall health. UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital provides complete oncology services. Contact the Allen Oncology Services for all your breast cancer questions. While you are at it, schedule your annual mammogram!