BY MAKING LIFESTYLE CHANGES AND KNOWING YOUR RISK, YOU CAN LOWER YOUR ODDS OF FACING THE DISEASE
Early detection of breast cancer grabs a lot of attention. And that’s not a bad thing. When you know your risk factors, get your mammograms and other screening tests on schedule, and see your health provider if you notice anything suspicious, you can increase your odds of detecting breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be treated more easily and with better long-term results.
“But I worry that women don’t also pay close attention to the everyday things they can do to help prevent breast cancer, not just detect it early. Here are a few things I recommend to my patients to help keep breast cancer at bay.”
1.Choose a diet that lowers your risk. Foods that can help lower the risk of breast cancer also lower the risk of other cancers as well as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. I recommend a diet focused on vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy. Among those categories, there aren’t specific foods I recommend for lowering risk. And lowering fat intake doesn’t seem to change your breast cancer risk.
2. Manage your weight. Being overweight, and gaining weight as an adult, increase your risk of breast cancer after menopause.
3. Get some exercise. Moderate to vigorous physical activity can help lower your risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, spread out over a week.
4. Watch your alcohol consumption. Drinking even low amounts of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. If you drink alcohol, keep it to one drink a day or less.
5. Consider genetic counseling and medication. If you have a family or personal history of breast cancer that puts you at higher-than-average risk, talk to your doctor. You might want to find out if genetic testing could be a good option for you. And taking tamoxifen or another medication might be something else you want to evaluate.
“Keep in mind that there are no guarantees with breast cancer prevention.”
Many of the main factors that affect your risk are difficult or impossible to control:
- Your age
- Your age when you got your first period and when you reached menopause
- Whether you have children, how old you were when your first child was born, and whether you breastfed
- Your family history of breast cancer
You can take steps to lower your risk, but even the best diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle changes can’t bring your risk down to zero. My recommendation? Make the changes you need to lower your risk, but stick with all your early detection efforts, too. Prevention and early detection go hand in hand.