American Cancer Society
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time to take steps to help lower your risk of developing breast cancer. While you can’t change some risk factors – genetics and getting older, for example – there are things you can do that may lower your breast cancer risk. Here are five ways to help protect your breast health.
• Watch your weight – being overweight or obese increases breast cancer risk. This is especially true after menopause and for women who gain weight as adults. The major source of estrogen for postmenopausal women is not the ovaries, but fat tissue. The increased risk may be due in part to this excess estrogen in fatty tissue.
If you’re already at a healthy weight, stay there. If you’re carrying extra pounds, try to shed some. There’s evidence that losing weight may lower breast cancer risk. One easy goal to get started is to try losing 5 percent to 10 percent of your current weight over six months. For most women, that means dropping just half a pound per week.
• Exercise regularly – many studies have found that exercise is a breast-healthy habit. As little as 75 to 150 minutes of brisk walking each week has been shown to lower risk. Ramping up your exercise routine even more may lower your breast cancer risk even further.
The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. (Or a combination of both.) And don’t cram it all into a single workout – spread it out over the week.
• Limit alcohol – women who have two or more alcoholic drinks a day have about one-and-a-half times the risk of breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink at all.
Follow the American Cancer Society’s recommendation of no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. A single drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits – hard liquor.
• Avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy – hormone replacement therapy had long been used for night sweats, hot flashes, and other troublesome symptoms of menopause. But in 2002, researchers found that postmenopausal women who took a combination of estrogen and progestin were more likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer risk appears to return to normal within 5 years after stopping the combination of hormones.
Talk with your doctor about all the options to control your menopause symptoms, and the risks and benefits of each. If you do decide to try HRT, it is best to use it at the lowest dose that works for you and for as short a time as possible.
• Mammograms – get recommended mammograms to find breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. The American Cancer Society recommends women age 40 and over get one every year, along with a breast exam by a doctor or nurse. Let your doctor know about any breast changes you find yourself.
Never forget a breast cancer screening test again. Sign up online for automated reminders through the American Cancer Society’s “Breast Cancer Screening Reminder” at http://acs.p.delivery.net/m/p/acs/rem/breast-cancer-screening-mammogram-reminder.asp.