A common misbelief is that mammograms prevent breast cancer. They don’t. What mammograms do are reduce the death rates of those who get breast cancer. Early detection, of which mammograms are supreme, is the single most important predictor of survival. Get it early; get it out; get better. However, most would agree that if we move things back a step and focus on true prevention, breast cancer rates could plummet. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is no better illustrated then by the steps everyone can take to decrease their risk of breast cancer.
Watch the weight
An increase in weight at any age, but especially after menopause, increases your risk of developing breast cancer. There also seems to be a connection between belly fat and risk. The more you have…the greater the harm. The increased incidence is probably related to the fact that extra fatty tissues increase the circulating estrogen in your system which in turn may promote the development of abnormal breast cells. The good news is that losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) reverses this risk.
Lose the booze
Believe it or not, alcohol is the most well established dietary risk factor for breast cancer. A huge national study estimated that women who consume more than one alcoholic drink a day can increase their risk almost 20%! All other things being equal, teetotalers are less likely to get breast cancer and be thinner than the average adult beverage consumer.
Forage for fruit
Both fruit and vegetable consumption can lower your risk. It’s as simple as putting down seven servings of the green stuff a day and you can decrease the chance that breast cancer will come calling. Various studies indicate the best types of veggies and fruits include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, citrus, berries and cherries. There is nothing like a good kale and cabbage smoothie to end the day! Why not try a refreshing tomato juice cocktail instead of that glass of Chardonnay?
Sweat with the oldies
Richard Simmons doesn’t have breast cancer, and you might not either if you exercise every day. The key is consistency and persistence, not necessarily intensity. Studies show that a brisk walk for 30-45 minutes three to four times a week can lesson your risk. I’m sure it is related to weight management, but there are chemicals produced during exercise that are powerful immune system boosters that provide protection independent of the fat burning benefit.
Pick your fats
We have all heard about the wonder of fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids. Not only do these powerful antioxidants benefit your heart, but studies suggest those women with low omega 3 blood levels have a higher rate of many cancers, including breast. Obviously eating cold water fish, like mackerel and salmon, increases these levels, but many nuts and seeds such as flax seeds, pecans, and hazel nuts are also excellent sources. Minimize your intake of saturated fats (meats, lard, butter) and use olive and canola oil in cooking.
White is not right
White rice, white potatoes and white flour are all high glycemic carbohydrates (very good at raising blood sugar levels) and these and other similar foods stimulate a type of hormone production which in turn promotes cellular growth in breast tissue. This is not to say that Minute Rice is carcinogenic, just keep in mind that over consumption of high glycemic carbs promotes both weight gain and are “pro-inflammatory”. In other words, everything in moderation, nothing in excess.
Tofu a day
There is a great discrepancy in breast cancer rates between western women and oriental females. Women from the Japan have half the cancer rate as those in the U.S. There are a number of factors but most scientist agree that diet plays a big role. Those women who consume a greater variety and amount of soy based products during their lifetime have a lower risk of breast cancer. Keep in mind this is an effect that only applies over many years, and probably relies on heavy consumption in childhood and the young adult years. There is much less evidence that simply beginning to eat soy products later in life has any protective effect at all. Maybe those soy based baby formulas are on to something!
Don’t worry, be happy
This one requires more space than I have here to explain, but suffice it to say that stress and poor sleep are both risk factors for breast cancer. The mind-body connection is a powerful one affecting everything from the immune system to our digestive health. The more stressed we are, the more certain inflammatory hormones are produced, the more cellular damage occurs, the more chances for cells to become cancerous. After all, what is there to worry about when you can finish your ten mile run, pop open an ice cold tofu and salmon smoothie, cook your dinner of lentils with olive oil, and relax!
resources: Dr.Ann Kulze and women’shealth.com