Breast cancer is the leading causes of cancer death among women, and is one of the most common forms of cancer, too. How can you protect yourself?
While some risk factors for breast cancer can’t be controlled, others can. A few simple habits can dramatically lower your chances for developing this disease—and possibly save your life.
Breast cancer has been linked to estrogen levels (which is why your risk for the disease increases when you take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy). The good news is that exercise lowers your estrogen levels. Experts recommend getting at least 40 to 60 minutes of exercise several times a week, but if you’re busy, aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. It’s never too late to start: research published in the British Medical Journal shows that the health benefits of exercise actually increase after menopause.
Control your body weight
Being overweight increases your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes—and you can add breast cancer to the list. An excess of 20 pounds can already bump you into the “risk group” (right next to smokers and women who has a family history of cancer).
Load up on Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the best ways to defend yourself against cancer: studies show that cancer seemed to spread more quickly among women who have vitamin D deficiency (and we say quickly, think nearly double the rate—or 94% more). Doctors recommend taking about 800 to 1000 IU of Vitamin D a day.
If you have even just two drinks a day, your chances of developing breast cancer go up by 34%. Reach for a third, fourth or fifth drink, and your risk goes up by 51%.
Manage your hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy has its benefits, but to minimize your risk for breast cancer, take these only if the symptoms of menopause are unmanageable. Also, put a deadline: doctors recommend a maximum time of five years.
Know your breasts
Doctors have long advocated monthly breast exams and pay attention to any changes in shape or unusual lumps. Also, visit your gynecologist regularly—which will give you a chance to have a pap smear (which can detect cervical cancer in its earliest stages) and raise any questions.
Photo from knowthecancer.com