Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. Although the cause is unknown, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer. A few simple lifestyle changes could make a big difference later in life.
- Family History. One of the risk factors you cannot change are genetics. 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases are said to be hereditary. Genetic testing is available, but can be very expensive. Abnormal results could also reduce your chances of obtaining life insurance. About 30% of women that get breast cancer have a family history of it. Knowing your risk factors can go along way.
- Breastfeeding. Studies show that women who breastfed for a total of two years or more reduced their risk of breast cancer by 50%. Researchers believe that shedding of the breast tissue during lactation may play a part in prevention. It is also believed that a hormone shift during lactation may be effective. If you choose to breastfeed, you and your baby will benefit greatly.
- Weight Control and Exercise. It is said that women who exercise regularly are less likely to develop breast cancer. Exercise lowers a woman’s exposure to estrogen, which contributes to cancer growth. A study done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, stated that women who exercise regularly decrease their chance of getting cancer by 22%. We know exercise is important for staying healthy, but it needs to be combined with a healthy diet. Women who gain excessive weight later in life, greatly increase their risk of developing breast cancer. Limiting your fat intake to less than 35% of your daily calories can make a big difference.
- Regular Screening. Regular screening may not help prevent breast cancer, but it can help you detect it in it’s early stages. It is much easier to treat when caught early. Starting at age 40, women are advised to get a yearly mammogram. A mammogram is an ex-ray exam of the breast. It can detect any abnormalities. Women in their 20’s are encourage to do a monthly breast exam. If you ever see or feel any changes, report it to your doctor right away.
- Limit Estrogen Exposure. A lifetime of high exposure could greatly increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Lifestyle and environmental factors can increase the levels of estrogen in your body. Therefore, it is important to know what these factors are. Things such as body weight, high fat diets, alcohol, birth control pills, and postmenopausal hormone treatments have all been shown to increase a woman’s level of estrogen. Understanding how estrogen works in the body will help you make better decisions about your body and environment.
Making a few healthy changes to your lifestyle now could make a big difference later.