With Breast Cancer Awareness Month behind us and images of pink ribbons appearing on everything from fried chicken buckets to cash loan signs, there are some questions left to be raised about this very important issue.
Over 40,000 women die of breast cancer yearly, yet there is very little talk about prevention from the multi-billion dollar “breast cancer awareness” industry. It would stand to reason that preventing breast cancer would be much more important than detecting it, and there is plenty of research regarding prevention of breast cancer. Here are some ways you can decrease your risk.
1. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT.
Many studies have shown that being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer especially in women after the age 50. Maintaining a healthy weight includes eating a healthy diet, limiting your intake of sugars and carbohydrates, and engaging in some form of physical activity.
Take home point: Maintain a BMI under 25. Go to http://www.freebmicalculator.net to calculate your BMI.
2. LIMIT YOUR CONSUMPTION OF FRIED FOODS AND CHARRED MEATS.
Several carcinogenic compounds are formed by cooking foods using high heat. These chemicals have been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer as well as other cancers.
Take home points: Eat less fried foods and more rare/medium-rare cooked meats. Make sure all meat products eaten are raised “clean” and natural.
3. DECREASE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE.
Most Americans consume too much sugar whether in the form of refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup. In recent years, researchers have found that women with early stage breast cancer who had a higher sugar intake resulting in higher insulin levels doubled their risk of the cancer spreading. They were also three times as likely to die of breast cancer. Not only does hyperinsulinemia (or high insulin level) “feed” cancer cells, but it also causes obesity which increases the risk of breast cancer. It is important to note that hyperinsulinemia can be caused by eating too many grains, fruits, or starchy vegetables as well as excessive alcohol use.
Take home points: Read labels and limit total daily “sugar” content to under 30 grams daily.
4. EAT A VARIETY OF ORGANIC, LOCAL, AND SEASONAL VEGETABLES AND FRUITS.
They contain cancer preventing phytonutrients and antioxidants as well as fiber, live enzymes, and other beneficial compounds. Eating organic produce decreases your exposure to harmful chemicals while eating local and seasonal will ensure your veggies and fruit are at the peak of nutrition and freshness. Eating at least half of them in their raw state also makes them even more beneficial and powerful in disease prevention.
Take home points: Eat more raw, local, and seasonal produce. Go to find a farmer’s market near you at http://www.localharvest.org. Go to http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month to learn which fruits/vegetables naturally grow in each of the 12 months.
5. BE AWARE OF CHEMICALS OCCURRING IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT.
Chemicals such as BPA, parabens, and phthalates, to name a few, have been linked in study after study to an increased risk of breast cancer, diabetes, and many other cancers and diseases. These chemicals occur in everything from plastic water bottles to cosmetics, deodorants, and hair care products. Be informed about products that go into and onto your body.
Take home points: Use safe skin products. http://www.mercola.com has a great line of safe personal hygiene, skin, and hair products. Try Thai Deodorant Crystal products for safer underarm deodorant which can be found at many local stores and online.
6. MAKE SURE YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS ARE OPTIMAL.
Low levels have been linked to an increased incidence of breast cancer as well as other cancers and diseases. Vitamin D is synthesized by our skin through sun exposure or may be supplemented. The precursor molecule to vitamin D is cholesterol so those taking cholesterol reducing medications should be monitored even more carefully. Supplementation dose should be discussed with your healthcare provider based on your blood levels to reduce risk for breast cancer as well as many other health problems.
Take home points: Get blood levels tested for Vitamin D and talk to your healthcare provider if you are a candidate for Vitamin D supplementation. Additionally, we recommend 15-20 minutes of sunlight 3 times daily with as much exposed body area as possible.
7. MANAGE YOUR STRESS.
Chronic stress is a known contributor to many diseases including cancer because of the inflammation and hormonal imbalances it causes. Although it is difficult to limit sources of stress in our busy and hectic lives, how you manage this stress can be crucial to preventing mental and physical illness. Whether you exercise, practice yoga, meditate, pray, or just take a walk, taking a few minutes every day to decompress is a great way to decrease the negative effects of stress on your health. Learning and using some breathing techniques is also very important because stress causes our breathing to subconsciously become shallow and prevents adequate oxygenation through the body. So something as simple as taking 10 minutes to breathe deeply can make a significant impact on your health.
Take home points: Manage daily stress at home and work. Try many of the different strategies that are available today and use what works for you. Monitor your “happiness level” as the most accurate gauge for stress levels.
8. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE RISKS AND BENEFITS OF MAMMOGRAPHY SCREENINGS.
There has been contradicting evidence about whether annual screenings beginning as early as age 35 are beneficial or actually increase the risk of breast cancer because of the increased exposure to radiation. Radiation has long been known to cause cancer. There has also been some controversy regarding the financial motives of agencies making these recommendations. Be a well-informed patient and discuss your personal risks and choices regarding mammography with your healthcare provider.
Take home points: Those with personal and family history of breast cancer talk to your healthcare providers about a breast cancer prevention strategy. Those who do not have risk factors follow the latest USPSTF screening guidelines of mammograms every 2 years after 50. Educate yourself on new guidelines http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsbrca.htm. Ask your healthcare provider about the safe, complimentary procedure of thermography.
We hope you will find this information helpful in your efforts to decrease your risks for breast cancer and keep you aware of this very important issue year round. These are just a few of many ways to prevent the disease. There are many other measures such as drinking green tea and using turmeric which have been shown to be beneficial in the fight against cancer. Placing equal emphasis on prevention that has been given to screening and medical treatment will ultimately result in a decrease in breast cancer. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
This article was written by Sellma Vllasi, RN, FNP-C at Wiseman Family Practice.