How to Reduce Your Risk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Advice and Tips from Bright Pink to Reduce Your Risk
Keep your body on the bright track by committing to these healthy habits:
- Limit your fat intake. Research shows a modest decrease in invasive breast cancer in women with a low–fat diet. Fill up on cancer–fighting foods like fruits and vegetables, and eat red meat sparingly.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. There’s a clear link between obesity and breast cancer due to the excess estrogen production in fatty tissue. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important actions you can take to reduce your risk.
- Make exercise a part of your daily life. Regular exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Plus, it has lots of other benefits like lowering your risk for heart disease and reducing stress.
- Cut back on cocktails. There seems to be some link between alcohol and breast cancer, although scientists don’t really know how strong. Stay on the safe side and limit your alcohol consumption (that includes beer, wine, and liquor) to one drink per day or eliminate it completely.
- Don’t smoke. While there is limited research that suggests smoking cigarettes may be linked to breast and ovarian cancer, there is a direct link between tobacco use and many other cancers (not just lung or other oral cancers).
Research has shown that certain foods can actually help decrease your risk of developing cancer. These cancer-fighting foods are not only nutritious—they are usually inexpensive and a natural way to take action and manage your health.
Here’s what to look for when you head to the grocery store:
- Vitamin A: Researchers have found that this powerful vitamin can actually reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in those who have a family history of the disease. Carrots, sweet potatoes, dried herbs, and leafy greens are all rich in vitamin A.
- Vitamin E: This vitamin has been clinically proven to slow the growth of cancer cells in the ovaries by reducing the production of telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Foods rich in vitamin E include leafy greens such as swiss chard, spinach, and kale, as well as nuts, wheat, and tropical fruits.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is known to help reduce the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer by slowing the growth of cancer cells.The best way to get more vitamin D in your diet is by eating fatty fish (such as salmon), but it can also be found in milk, fortified cereal, orange juice, and eggs.
- Fiber: This nutrient found in whole grain, flax, certain cereals, beans, and vegetables has been shown to reduce estrogen levels, which in turn can slow the growth of cancer cells in the breasts. When shopping, swap your white bread with whole grain bread, white rice with brown rice, and sugary cereal for a cereal rich in fiber and the vitamins listed above.
- Fruits and Vegetables: In general, fruits and vegetables carry the vitamins and nutrients that can help lower your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Aim for at least five servings a day, and try to include lots of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, and dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach.
The next time you head to the grocery store, take our Cancer–fighting Foods Shopping List with you!
In addition to preventing pregnancy, studies have shown that oral contraceptives (birth control pills) can help prevent ovarian, uterine and possibly colorectal cancer. In fact, taking oral contraceptives for five years in your 20s and 30s can cut your risk of developing ovarian cancer by up to 50%. This is a simple way to reduce your risk for the deadliest gynecologic disease.
You may have heard that taking birth control can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. While more studies are needed to better answer the question of breast cancer risk, the protective benefits related to decreased ovarian cancer risk are clear. The decision to take birth control pills is a very personal one, and as with any medication, there are risks as well as benefits. Your doctor can help you weigh the potential risks and benefits of using oral contraceptives to optimize and individualize your own proactive breast and ovarian health plan and decide what’s best for you.
Breastfeeding for one to two years has been proven to reduce your estrogen levels, which may lower your risk of developing breast cancer (this is especially true if you have a family history of the disease). Breastfeeding also offers many health benefits to babies and may reduce a female baby’s overall risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
With more scientific evidence emerging daily, it’s clear that the chemicals in our environment play a role in altering our biological processes. We now know that our exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation are connected to our breast cancer risk.
Some of the risk factors for breast cancer, such as our family history, can’t be helped. But the bright news is that particular environmental factors are within our control. Get to know the chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer and learn about what you can do in terms of personal, corporate and political action to limit your exposure, thereby reducing your risk of breast cancer.
8 More Tips for Prevention
- Add your voice to the growing community of individuals demanding policies to protect our health from the negative effects of chemicals and radiation linked to breast cancer: http://www.breastcancerfund.org/big-picture-solutions/
- Share tips with friends and family: http://www.breastcancerfund.org/assets/pdfs/tips-fact-sheets/1-sheet-tip-cards.pdf
- Choose cleaning products and personal care products that fully disclose ingredients, including the components of fragrance. Synthetic fragrance can contain dozens of chemicals, such as phthalates and synthetic musks that disrupt the body’s hormones. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/reduce-your-risk/tips/healthy-home/
- Choose stainless steel or glass for drinking water in order to reduce exposure to BPA (a hormone disruptor) and replacements for BPA in plastic, many of which behave like estrogen. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/reduce-your-risk/tips/protect-your-family/
- Learn to read the labels of cosmetics and personal care products. This can help you avoid synthetic chemicals (like those ending with -PEG and -eth) and ensure that labels that make claims of “organic” and “natural” really are organic and natural, since anyone can call a product natural regardless of what is really inside. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/reduce-your-risk/tips/choose-safe-cosmetics/
- Limit canned food consumption. Most food cans are lined with BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical that multiple studies have found disrupts mammary gland development in animals. Instead, choose foods packaged in glass or Tetra Pak containers, and opt for frozen vegetables and dried beans instead of canned. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/reduce-your-risk/tips/eat-live-better/
- Choose truly green options for your delicate clothing. Dry cleaning relies on a toxic chemical called Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or PERC. Seek out wet cleaning options, which are emerging in urban areas, that use water at carefully selected temperatures. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/reduce-your-risk/tips/protect-yourself-environment/
- Lower your exposure to radiation. Although X-rays and CT scans can provide critical information for diagnosing medical problems, there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation. Discuss with your medical care team whether or not the tests are necessary and whether there may be alternative tests that don’t use radiation, such as MRI or ultrasound. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/reduce-your-risk/tips/make-informed-healthcare-choices/
While all of these activities can reduce your breast and ovarian cancer risk, they do not eliminate it completely. Keep the tips above in mind as you create an overall plan, which should also include early detection.
Article reprinted from BrightPink.org, the only national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women, while providing support for high-risk individuals. Please consider donating or volunteering.
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