A few nights ago I was talking to my mom about breast cancer and she interrupted me and started naming the women she knew on nearby streets who were breast cancer survivors. There’s a reason we are hearing so much about this disease and you too many know many women who have had it – breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. But here’s the good news: there are steps each of us can take to decrease our risk.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer and leads to a poorer prognosis if you have breast cancer as well as an increased rate of recurrence, particularly in post-menopausal women.
Make Time for Physical Activity
According to the most comprehensive report on food, nutrition and cancer prevention from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, greater than 3 hours of physical activity per week reduces risk of breast cancer. Get your calendar out and schedule periods for exercise. If you are having trouble finding time, get an activity counter (Nike and several other companies make them and there are apps on your phone that you can use as well) and measure your physical activity each day (aiming for at least 10,000 steps per day). Activity counters make you accountable. Being overweight increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer and leads to a poorer prognosis if you have breast cancer as well as an increased rate of recurrence, particularly in post-menopausal women.
Minimize Alcohol Consumption
One or more drinks per day increases your risk of developing breast cancer. And, the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer.
Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet
Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber will help you feel better and keep your weight within normal limits. Also, diets that contain plenty of vitamin C rich foods including citrus fruits (oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit), potatoes and strawberries may help protect against certain types of cancer including lung, breast and colon cancers. And, be sure to consume vitamin D rich foods as well including fortified milk or a milk substitute, fortified yogurt (check the container since only a few have added vitamin D) and fatty fish. And, get your vitamin D levels checked and if you are having trouble maintaining them within normal limits through diet alone, take a supplement. The latest research shows patients with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood had approximately half the death rate from breast cancer as those with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood.
Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Website: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9810
Anticancer Res 2014;34(3):1163-1166.