It seems like every day, we see more “pink” in our daily lives. More pink ribbons, more pink signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts, cups, etc., urging us to acknowledge and contribute to the cure for breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization is perhaps the most ubiquitous foundation in cancer research and support, and its directors and supporters have done a masterful job in marketing the cause to the public. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 of every 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. It’s a statistic that’s scary, for sure, but one that should also raise awareness and turn our attention to early detection and prevention.
Breast cancer can be a killer. Currently, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer, among all cancer deaths in women, in the U.S. Worldwide, breast cancer leads all cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths in women. Of course, smoking makes a huge impact in the cancer statistics here at home. Obviously, lung cancer is attributable to smoking but smoking plays a significant role in the development of breast cancer. But what else drives the numbers and what can we do to prevent or decrease our risks of breast cancer?
It must be understood that there are certain risk factors associated with breast cancer that we can do nothing about. If you are a woman, have a history of breast cancer in your family, have a genetic predisposition for breast cancer or have certain physical characteristics in breast tissue, you’re going to be at a higher risk. Likewise, as a woman ages, the risk of developing breast cancer increases. There are prevention methods that every woman can implement in her daily lifestyle and they include:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight are subject to many health concerns, including cardiovascular diseases and many types of cancer.
- Exercise. A sedentary lifestyle may contribute to the likelihood of developing breast cancer, especially in those women age 50 and older. Studies have shown a reduction in risk for women exercising just 4 to 7 hours per week. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising can cut breast cancer risk and it’s something that we can control.
- Eating nutritious foods. As with all cancers, a diet rich in whole grains, lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables can help to reduce risks.
- Smoking cessation. If there’s one risk reducing factor that trumps them all, it’s quitting smoking. Smoking causes numerous health risks, including heart disease and various forms of cancer. It’s not easy to kick the habit but if you do smoke, there’s no better way to reduce health risks and improve your overall health than to quit now.
- Vitamin D. Women lacking sufficient vitamin D in their bodies are at higher risk for developing breast cancer. Research has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in healthy breast cell growth and this vitamin may also prohibit cancer cells from growing.
- Limiting chemical exposure. Frequent and continued exposure to toxic chemicals may contribute to cancer growth in the breasts. Whether it be from seemingly innocuous sources such as ingredients in some cosmetics, sunscreens, certain plastics, lawn and garden chemicals or harmful components in foods and drinks, it’s important to consider your exposure to carcinogenic compounds.
- Alcohol. Studies have shown that the risk of developing breast cancer increases by as much as 10% for women consuming more than one alcoholic drink per day. While this statistic may sound dramatic, it is considered factual that increasing alcohol consumption presents a significant risk in the development of breast cancer.
Breast cancer research continues to advance every day. Causes associated with this disease and new risk factors are constantly being reviewed and updated, in accordance with the latest research. Already, researchers have identified genetic markers for those men and women who carry mutant genes which predispose one to breast cancer. One day, we may even find a cure for this killer. Until that day we must be vigilant in taking steps to significantly reduce our risks and urge our friends and families to follow our lead. So, “think pink” and make healthy changes in your lifestyle.