As you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just about everyone you talk to has a story that links them to breast cancer in some way. So many women have been diagnosed with breast cancer that it seems everyone knows someone who has battled this terrible disease. With all of the knowledge we have gained about breast cancer from doctors and researchers, why is it that there are still so many women being diagnosed?
In 2013, it is predicted that there will be a total of 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed. According to The American Cancer Society, the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life is about 1 in 8 and the chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36. The Susan G. Komen Foundation reports that the incidence of breast cancer dropped in the early 2000’s, most likely related to a drop in the use of menopausal hormone therapy (postmenopausal hormone use) that occurred after the Women’s Health Initiative study showed its use increased the risk of breast cancer. Since 2005, the incidence rate of breast cancer has remained stable.
So in the past eight or so years, why have we not been able to decrease the incidence rate of breast cancer? Experts believe what can be achieved through breast cancer screenings has been achieved and that we need to shift our attention to lifestyle changes as new methods of preventing the disease. Lifestyle related risk factors for breast cancer include nutritional deficiencies, exposure to environmental toxins, excessive alcohol use, smoking, and obesity. Exercise can help reduce a woman’s risk of contracting breast cancer. Increased estrogen levels have been linked to breast cancer incidence. Estrogen is a hormone produced in fat tissue so the more fat tissue a woman has, the higher her estrogen level will be. A healthy diet and exercise can help reduce body fat, which in turn reduces estrogen levels leading to a decreased risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. In one study from the Women’s Health Initiative, as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. Nutritional deficiencies such as low vitamin A, D, calcium and omega-3’s can be easily raised by taking daily over the counter supplements. Excessive drinking and smoking are easy enough to avoid. It’s simply a matter of putting it into action. Many environmental toxins such as BPA, parabens and synthetic growth hormones are becoming easier to avoid in our daily lives with the emergence of many foods and products that are free of these chemicals.
Preventing breast cancer may seem like a daunting task, but there are many easy lifestyle changes that we can make to reduce our risk of contracting the disease. The potential benefit of preventing breast cancer is certainly worth the effort. So if there’s one thing you should think about during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s that we should not wait until we are diagnosed with breast cancer to begin our fight against it. The real fight is in preventing breast cancer from occurring in the first place.
For a list of ways you can help prevent breast cancer, follow the link below.