There is not a known genetic risk for breast cancer in my family, at least not that we know of yet. Even if there were, there is not much that can be done about genetics. One study even said that left handedness may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Well, there is not much I can do about being left-handed either. There are, however, many things I can start or continue to do to lower the chances of getting breast cancer. Are they a guarantee? Absolutely not. Yet in general I am a big believer that if it can’t hurt but might help, it is our obligation to give it a shot.
So, with that said, here is how I am lowering my breast cancer risk:
Not smoking. I was never a smoker, unless you count those three weeks in seventh grade. (Sorry, Mom.) Smoking increases one’s chances for developing breast cancer. It has a whole lot of other negative consequences too. Not to mention that it just smells kind of gross.
Avoiding red meat. A study out of Great Britain found that eating red meat increases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. This is another one that is easy for me, having sworn off red meat back in seventh grade and avoiding it ever since.
Keeping my weight in check. It has long been known that fattier breast tissue is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. If keeping my weight on the lower side is going to help reduce the risk of getting breast cancer, then that is good enough incentive for me.
Taking vitamins and calcium supplements. In addition to vitamin D, taking multi-vitamins and calcium supplements appear to reduce the risk of breast cancer. One study showed that vitamin supplements can reduce the risk of breast cancer by up to 30% and calcium supplements can reduce the risk by up to 40%.
Making sure I get vitamin D (also known as sunshine). Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium and maintain normal blood levels of both calcium and phosphorus. It can be found in many foods, including several types of fish, eggs, cod liver oil. (Most of my vitamin D intake comes from eggs.) Many items in the dairy section are also fortified with vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight aids in body’s production of vitamin D. It is thought that as little as 10 minutes of daily exposure can be helpful. Studies show that vitamin D may induce a tumor suppressing protein that can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
Eating my veggies. Vegetable consumption has been associated with a lower risk of a certain type of breast cancer known as estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer. I am lowering my breast cancer risk quite a bit this year, having joined a local organic CSA.
Eating organic foods and using chemical-free products. I am a firm believer that the rise in allergies, cancer, asthma, and chronic diseases can be at least in part attributed to the chemicals that we are consuming. So I am reducing this potential concern for myself and my family by eating organic and using chemical-free products on our bodies and in our home whenever possible.
Getting regular exercise. We all know that exercise is important for weight control and cardiovascular health. And besides being good for you, it can be great fun! For the past year or so I have taken up spinning, and absolutely look forward to each and every class. Women who do regular moderate to vigorous exercise also have a reduced risk of breast cancer. In fact, physically active women are up to 25% less likely to get breast cancer.
Drinking coffee. Yes, you read that right. Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Great news, isn’t it? Drinking coffee can also decrease the risk of a recurrence of breast cancer. Thank you, Joe! I think I will take another cuppa.
Getting mammograms. Admittedly, mammogram day is not exactly my favorite day of the year. Not just because of what they will find or because of the temporary discomfort. I have often wondered whether the repeated radiation does more harm than good. Yet research actually shows that women tend to overestimate the amount of radiation used during mammography. Additionally, digital mammograms are shown to have a significantly lower exposure to radiation than the conventional type of film mammogram. And 3D mammograms increases early detection of breast cancer thus reducing call backs. For those women (like myself) who have denser breast tissue, this such a wonderful option.
Doing regular breast self-exams. Too many women with breast cancer found it themselves to not be doing regular self-exams. As I wrote recently, my friend Amanda found hers at the age of 32. She would not have had a mammogram for eight more years. Another friend found hers just a few weeks after having her annual mammogram, because it was in an area that would not have been reached by the x-ray.
Supporting the cause. This one should be proceeded with caution. In other words, watch out for pinkwashing. Instead of buying an item that donates a teeny tiny percentage of proceeds to the cause, why not support a brand that donates 100% of net profits? Better yet, why not make a donation directly to organizations such as the American Cancer Society?
You can also support the cause with your time. This past September I participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk, along with Trina from O’ Boy Organic. It was such an overwhelming, life-changing experience. I was honored to be in the presence of walkers who were there for others as well as those who were there for themselves. I look forward to hearing their stories and being inspired by their unwavering strength again next year.
What about you? Is this something that you are making a conscious effort about? If so, what steps are you taking?
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