8 ways to reduce your breast cancer risk
Learn how to protect yourself with these tips from a Baptist Health expert.
Guest Columnist Published: 4/26/2018
Most people think getting cancer is something you have absolutely no control over. But did you know 85 percent of patients with breast cancer have no genetic mutation or family history of the disease?
Be encouraged – there are many things you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer:
- Toss the cigs. Not smoking or using tobacco of any kind is the No. 1 thing you can do. Smoking is highly associated with breast cancer, especially among younger, pre-menopausal women.
- Don’t drink too much. How much is too much? For women, it boils down to one drink a day. That means one beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one mixed drink with no more than 1-½ ounces of liquor.
- Be physically active and maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Obese post-menopausal women have a 20 – 40 percent higher risk than those who are at a healthy BMI.
- You knew it was coming – eating right is important for a cancer-free future. Try to stick to a plant-focused diet, lean meats and complex carbs, and limit your sugar intake. If it’s too hard to follow this type of diet every single day, stick to it during the week and allow yourself some leeway on the weekends.
- Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy may increase your breast cancer risk when used for more than two years. Talk to your doctor if you are considering this therapy.
- Take control of your breast health by having an annual mammogram starting at age 40 (earlier if you have a family history) and performing monthly self-breast exams. Your gynecologist will perform a clinical exam of your breasts during your annual visit; ask him or her to show you what to look for, especially if you have implants, which may make it difficult to distinguish between breast tissue and the implant.
- If at any time, you experience pain, redness, nipple changes, or feel a mass or thickening, make an appointment right away to see your doctor. Early detection can save your life.
- Finally, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you may want to undergo genetic testing. There are options for women who have the “breast cancer gene,” including surgery, or simply having more frequent screening.