You may not know this but, you have more control over your breast cancer risk than you think, even if you have a family history of it. Only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers can be blamed on inherited gene mutations. While genetic predisposition is significant when present, it’s empowering to realize that the majority of all breast cancer cases are under our control, in the choices we make every single day.
- Examine your breasts as soon as you start menstruating, you should be doing monthly self-exams on your breasts to recognize lumps and bumps and spot changes in the future more quickly.
- Do thermography or ultrasound scans along with self-exams starting at age 40. Thermography doesn’t use radiation like a mammogram. Mammograms are known for a high rate of false positives and have been associated with overdiagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
- Eat plant strong. Every time you eat, you move yourself closer to—or further from—cancer, and there’s no denying that a plant-based diet is best for the breasts. Plants, legumes, and 100 percent whole grains provide nutritional armor for cancer risks. Too many animal products can increase cancer risk, namely by elevating estrogen, which fuels 80 percent of all breast cancers.
- Eat these three, cancer-fighting foods daily. Although the plant kingdom is loaded with good-for-breasts food, broccoli, berries, and ground flax should be in your daily lineup. Eat a half cup of raw or steamed broccoli for its cancer-reducing isothiocyanates. Steam it or eat it raw, but chew broccoli thoroughly to break down the cell walls and let the molecules mix, creating sulforaphane. Sulforaphane helps seek out and destroy breast cancer cells. Berries contain a substance called ellagic acid, which helps in the prevention of breast cancer.
- Limit the alcohol you drink. Don’t be duped into thinking alcohol is “safe,” as a study from the journal Lancet concluded there is no safe level. Alcohol weakens your immune system, increases estrogen levels, and interferes with your body’s ability to convert folate into its DNA-protective form, methyl folate. This is why alcohol is considered a risk factor for breast cancer. You should consider supplementing with methyl folate. If you do drink, the American Cancer Society advises no more than one drink a day for women, two for men. Choosing red wine as your alcohol of choose would be better because resveratrol from the skin of red grapes inhibits the formation of cancer. What’s more, red wine behaves like an aromatase inhibitor, a drug given to estrogen-positive breast cancer patients to stop the conversion of your body’s steroids into estrogen.
- Move more. Active women have a 20 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than inactive women. On the flip side, being sedentary increases breast cancer risk by as much as 40 percent versus those who move at moderate levels for three to four hours a week. You don’t have to spend loads of time exercising. Even walking briskly for just 11 minutes a day can drop breast cancer incidence by 18 percent. Any activity every day throughout the week is better than doing nothing at all.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight has numerous health consequences, including an increased breast cancer risk. Overweight and obese adult women have a 50 to 250 percent greater risk for postmenopausal breast cancer than normal weight women. Did you know up to 50 percent of postmenopausal breast cancer deaths can be attributed to obesity.
- Know the red flags. If you see anything unusual in your breasts, talk with your doctor. No one will think you’re paranoid, something may be off kilter including a new lump, swelling in the breast, skin dimpling (like an orange peel), nipple discharge (that’s not milk), swollen lymph nodes, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction (turning inward), and nipple or breast skin that’s flaking, dry, red, or thickened.