What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer Prevention

In 2013 there were 230,815 women and 2,109 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those diagnosed, 40,860 women and 464 men died from the disease.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in people of all races and ethnicities, but there are ways to help prevent it. While not every risk factor can be altered, there are a few everyday lifestyle changes that can help ensure the risk level is as low as possible.

  • Prevention: When it comes to breast cancer diagnoses, being a woman is the biggest risk factor. It’s possible for men to develop the disease, but only one percent of new cases every year are attributed to men.
  • Know Your History: Approximately five to 10 percent of breast cancer diagnoses are hereditary. These genes can be passed from the mother’s or father’s side through a variety of mutated genes. Know what you’re up against and get screened accordingly.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight and Eat Healthy: Harvard researchers recently found that women who had high levels of carotenoid (found in fruits and vegetables) levels in their blood had a 19 percent lower risk of breast cancer. A clean diet from childhood through adulthood can prevent three percent of breast cancers.
  • Exercise Regularly: Getting active at least four hours every week would prevent 11 percent of breast cancers. The likelihood is further reduced if physical activity begins as a child and continues throughout life. This is because estrogen, which can stimulate the production of cancer cells, is produced by fat tissue following menopause, so the more fat there is, the more estrogen will be generated.
  • Limit Alcoholic Drinks: Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Studies show women who consume two to three alcoholic beverages per day have a 20 percent higher risk than non-drinkers.
  • Breastfeed, If Possible: A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consistently breastfed for at least six months had a 10 percent reduced risk of breast cancer compared to those who did not.

Dr. Denice Logan is a medical director with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Photo Credit: Liz West via Flickr

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