Most of us, unfortunately, either know someone or know of someone who has been affected by breast cancer.
October is breast cancer awareness month which makes this the perfect time to take a moment to become more aware and educated about breast cancer prevention. We all realize the importance of prevention and a healthy lifestyle. However, there are specific strategies we can learn about and implement to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from this disease.
Here are 5 strategies to utilize that can contribute to the prevention of breast cancer:
- Get enough exercise during the week. The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer research recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week. It is interesting to note that they state that vigorous physical activity decreases the risk of pre and post-menopausal breast cancer.
- Choose to eat a healthy diet with an abundance of beans, lentils, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Make sure you have a high amount of fiber every day. Data pooled from 20 research studies at Harvard showed that women consuming the highest amount of fiber were 8% less likely to develop breast cancer. The 8% didn’t seem high to me at first glance but when you combine this with the risk reduction that comes from having a lifestyle with moderate somewhat vigorous exercise as well as other dietary factors, diet and exercise can make a perceptible difference when it comes to cancer prevention.
- Increase the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These could come from sources such as cold water fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds and have been shown to have a protective effect. More information and comprehensive dietary recommendations can be found in the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s dietary guidelines here.
- Keep your BMI(body mass index) within the normal range for your height and gender (both males and females can get breast cancer). Keep in mind that even if your BMI is normal, you can still have metabolic obesity (high triglycerides and fat inflammation) that could put you at a higher risk for breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. See the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center article on this study here. From reading this, it looks like it is very important to keep an eye on and manage your triglyceride levels even if your other numbers are normal. A good BMI calculator from the CDC can be found here.
- Don’t miss your mammogram if your doctor feels you’re eligible to get one! This goes without saying but is so important to mention as well. I think that with the worries that come with being in the middle of a pandemic, so many of us have put off preventive care appointments. This one is an important one to schedule because so much can be done if the disease is caught in its early stages. Also, you may not have any symptoms initially, which makes it easier to neglect routine screenings.
Are you fairly careful about utilizing these preventive strategies? I find that I can definitely use the reminder.