A survey of over 9,000 women revealed that most women (about 90%) have an inaccurate understanding of their personal breast cancer risk. Of the 90% who misunderstood their risk, half under-estimated and half over-estimated their risk. An accurate risk estimate can help one decide what action to take in reducing breast cancer risk. Although it's the most common cancer among women, this goes for men, too. Over 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. What do we know about breast cancer risk? Breast cancer risk is increased by smoking, drinking more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks daily (for women), being overweight, exposure to radiation and environmental pollutants, and low vitamin D levels. What really helps is to know how to reduce breast cancer risk. Although relatively few risk factors are known, many of them are modifiable. This means you can make a difference with your lifestyle choices. Consider the following modifiable risk factors.
Exercise - Stay lean not lenient
Experts are convinced obesity and physical inactivity are serious risk factors for breast cancer. In fact, 15% of breast cancer cases are linked to obesity and inactive lifestyles. Abdominal and total body fatness especially increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Since your body weight is closely connected with breast cancer risk, regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, is an important way to prevent breast cancer. Can you squeeze in some simple exercises throughout your day? It could be as simple as waking up just half an hour earlier on most days of the week, sneaking some physical activity during your work breaks, or choosing to walk whenever you get the chance. Speaking of walking, consider some insights from a huge, long-term nationwide study conducted by the American Cancer Society known as the Cancer Prevention Study. Researchers found that women who walked at least 7 hours each week were 14% less likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer. So why not take a walk to deliver a message instead of sending a text or making a phone call. Take a refreshing walk to clear up your mind during your lunch break. Another option is to set aside a window of time each morning or each evening for a light or brisk walk. You may be wondering what exercise has to do with cancer of breast tissue. Breast cancer is one of the few hormonally-dependent cancers. The journal Breast Cancer Research published a research study known as SHAPE (Sex Hormones and Physical Exercise). This randomized, controlled trial found that weight or fat loss induced by exercise had a beneficial effect on sex hormones involved in breast cancer. They concluded that a leaner body, achieved by both exercise and diet, is important in achieving a favorable body composition that reduces sex hormone levels in the blood and breast cancer risk. The take-home message? Stay active to stay lean. This helps significantly reduce breast cancer risk.
Does diet matter?
Does diet really matter? Why are we even asking this question? Well, let's say you're at a healthy weight, are regularly exercising, and take good control of your alcohol intake. Let's be honest. Wouldn't it be slightly tempting to reason that, with all these aspects covered, you can be more indulgent when it comes to what you eat? For every additional 10 grams of fiber per day, your risk of breast cancer drops 5%. High-fiber legumes (such as lentils, soybeans, dried beans and peas) as well as whole grains are already known to help slash the risk of gastrointestinal cancers. It turns out they are consistently associated with low breast cancer risk, too. In fact, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition points out that fiber-rich whole grains lower breast cancer risk when consumed more than 7 times per week. The same journal describes several ways whole grains help against breast cancer. They are rich in antioxidants. As a significant source of phytoestrogens, they help reduce the amount of estrogen and androgens that are reabsorbed in the bowel, thus reducing their levels in the blood. Also, fiber helps keep blood glucose under control with improved insulin sensitivity. This creates an environment in the body that helps reduce the risk of cancer development and chronic inflammation, which can promote cancer progression. Fiber is only part of the story. An excessive consumption of meat, especially processed meat, can also affect breast cancer risk. For example, each additional 30 grams of processed meat per day increases the risk of breast cancer by 3%. On the flipside, omega-3 fatty acids help protect you from cancer. Each additional 0.7 grams of omega-3 can reduce risk by 5%. This means that just two portions of oily fish each week can cut your cancer risk by up to 25%. Whether your breast cancer risk is high or low, eating smart can make a difference. Try to sneak in more of these cancer-preventive ingredients into your meals and recipes: garlic, turmeric, flaxseed, fish, orange fruits and vegetables, or berries. Finally, when it comes to vegetables, don't skimp on cruciferous, dark leafy green, and orange vegetables. These all contain cancer-preventive and cancer-fighting nutrients your body cannot do without.
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