October has become synonymous with all things pink and avid awareness of the impact breast cancer has on the lives of millions of women across the globe. The widespread awareness has achieved great things in the fight against breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there are now more than 2.9 million survivors in the U.S. and as research forges ahead, there is hope that not only will the number of deaths continue to dwindle, but so will the number of women diagnosed.
Researcher has shown that three basic health habits can effectively reduce cancer by 38 percent. These include consuming a balanced diet, participating in routine physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in reducing your risk of breast cancer. Follow these expert strategies for prevention and help protect “second base”:
- Consider hormone therapy. According to the American Cancer Society, hormone therapy for the treatment of menopause and following menopause can have many positive outcomes, including a slight reduction in the risk of breast cancer.
- Be wary of birth control. Studies have shown that prolonged use of birth control, particularly pills and shots, increases the risk of breast cancer. The risk appears to diminish with time following discontinued use.
- Breastfeed. There is evidence that women who breastfeed for 18 month to two years, experience a reduced risk of breast cancer, however this has been difficult to study because so few women breast feed for this length of time in the U.S.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. Increased rates of cancer risk have a direct link to overconsumption of alcohol. Studies have shown that women who consume 1 drink per day have a slightly increased risk, while those that consume 2 to 5 drinks daily on average almost double their risk.
- Watch your weight. A recent study found that women who have gained 21 to 40 pounds since the age of 18 have a 24 percent increased risk of cancer compared to those who have gained less than five pounds. Excess fat is linked to increased levels of circulating estrogen and insulin, which increase cancer risk.
- Stay active. Studies have shown that routine physical activity combats your risk of breast cancer. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to achieve positive outcomes – walking briskly for two and a half hours each week reduces your risk by 18 percent, increase to 10 hours a week and reduce your risk even further.
Another important weapon in the fight against breast cancer is knowing your risk. Family history, race and age all play a role in your risk level. Talk to your doctor about any relatives that have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This will help determine how often and at what ages you should begin screening for breast cancer and/or if you are a candidate for genetic testing that can guide your decision regarding your future health.