A huge amount of research is going on to try to find the causes of breast cancer and to identify effective ways to prevent it. Doctors and scientists cannot always explain why one woman develops breast cancer and another doesn’t.
A risk factor is defined as anything which increases your chance of developing breast cancer. A protective factor is anything which reduces your risk. We can control some risk factors, making choices to avoid or minimise these, and we can increase protective factors to reduce our chances of developing breast cancer.
But what we can’t do is guarantee zero risk.However, take heart! Many women with risk factors for breast cancer never develop it, and treatments have improved a great deal over the decades. Many women DO recover fully from breast cancer, going on to lead full, healthy and happy lives. Often, having battled breast cancer they live their lives with renewed vigour, zest and appreciation.Making the following changes in your life will improve your overall health and may also significantly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer – and other cancers and illnesses too.
Smoking causes so many diseases and health problems, they are too numerous to list here! Not surprisingly, smoking is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and in addition, can also increase the risk of complications during breast cancer treatment.
Take much more exercise – for the rest of your life
Be more physically active, and maintain a healthy weight. Overweight women are at increased risk of breast cancer, and being overweight can also increase the risk of breast cancer returning, in women who have had the disease. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that 25% of cancer cases worldwide are caused by overweight or obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The worldwide trends toward increasing overweight and obesity and decreasing physical activity may lead to an increased incidence of several cancers, unless other means of risk reduction counteract these effects. Adoption of simple lifestyle changes which incorporate increased exercise, reduced food intake, a healthier diet generally, and strategies to manage stress levels, can have a large impact on the future incidence of cancer worldwide, and in our own lives. The relationship between physical activity and breast cancer incidence has been extensively studied, with over 60 studies published in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia to date. Most studies indicate that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than inactive women; the amount of risk reduction achieved through physical activity in the studies varies widely – from between 20 to 80 percent.
Although most evidence suggests that physical activity reduces breast cancer risk in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, high levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity during adolescence may be especially protective. So along with getting more physically active yourself, encourage your teenaged daughters to stay fit and to participate in sports and physical outdoor activities that give them good regular workouts.
Although a lifetime of regular, vigorous activity is thought to be of greatest benefit, women who increase their physical activity after menopause may also experience a reduced risk compared with inactive women. Several studies also suggest that the effect of physical activity differs across levels of body weight, from normal, to obese, the greatest benefit being found in women in the normal weight range in some. Existing evidence shows a decreasing risk of breast cancer as the frequency and duration of physical activity increase.
Most studies suggest that 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate to high-intensity physical activity is associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk.Physical activity obviously assists with weight maintenance. It may also prevent tumour development by lowering hormone levels, lower levels of insulin and improve immune response. Regular physical activity improves health all round, by controlling weight, maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints, reducing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, promoting psychological well-being, and reducing risk of heart disease. Physical activity is associated with reduced risk of colon and breast cancer, and several studies have reported similar links for prostate, lung and endometrial cancer.
How much exercise?
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults engage in moderate intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week, or vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week. Moderate-intensity includes brisk walking, cycling on the flat or playing doubles tennis. Vigorous-intensity activity includes jogging, running, swimming laps, cycling fast, or in hilly terrain, and playing singles tennis or basketball.
Reduce your exposure to oestrogen
Prolonged exposure to oestrogen can increase risk for breast cancer. To reduce or eliminate sources of extra oestrogen via diet and environment, shed extra pounds and keep them off. Extra fat cells make extra oestrogen, and at optimal weight, oestrogen levels are lower. Also avoid taking oestrogen-like and progesterone-like products such as menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Limit alcohol intake
Either stop drinking alcohol completely, or limit yourself to under five alcoholic drinks a week. Significant alcohol intake damages the liver, which helps regulate oestrogen levels.
Adopt healthy eating habits
Learn about good nutrition and eat for good health – for the rest of your life. Everything your body does, from healing a wound to fighting cancer cells, is affected by what you eat. Bad nutrition seriously hampers your body’s ability to function optimally. Good nutrition will increase your all round health and well-being. Avoid ALL refined and processed foods, opting instead for whole foods, best of all, eaten raw. Cut out all cakes, biscuits, pies, puddings, sweets, sweetened drinks. Eat lots of fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Eat more fish, to boost your omega 3 fatty acid intake. Have three (moderately sized) servings of dairy product a day – milk, yoghurt, cheese. Studies show that if you are trying to lose weight, those who include three daily dairy servings lose more weight, and lose it faster, than those who are not eating regular dairy foods. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals too, most notably, the all important calcium.
Relax and unwind
Anything you do to reduce stress and enhance your enjoyment of life has a beneficial effect on your quality of life and on your health. Make prayer, meditation or yoga, part of your daily routine. Various new studies suggest that such practices, and others, that mean we take some time out from our stressful lives and the seemingly non-stop demands placed on us, strengthen our immune systems and benefit our health as a whole. A strong immune system in turn prevents and fights cancer and other illnesses. Exercise in itself is also relaxing and can be social as well.
Vigorous Exercise can cut breast cancer risk by 64%, report released 2 October 2010. Being physically active is universally acknowledged to be something we can all engage in to benefit our health in countless ways, helping to prevent a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis amongst many others. In a very recent study of a large sample of African American women in Georgetown, USA, published in Washington DC on 2 October 2010, scientists found that vigorous exercise for more than two hours per week reduced the risk of developing breast cancer in postmenopausal women by an amazing 64 percent. In the study, more than two hours of aerobics, running or similar activity over the span of a week counted as vigorous activity.Women who engaged in moderate exercise, like walking, had a 17 percent reduced risk, compared with women who were sedentary. While the benefit of specifically vigorous exercise was most significant for postmenopausal women, the researchers found that the effect of total physical activity, which included both walking with vigorous activity of two or more hours per week, showed significant gains for women at every stage of life. These results were presented at an American Association for Cancer Research Conference.