How to Prevent Breast Cancer and Detect it Early

Image of the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Throughout October, we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 264,121 new cases of female breast cancer in 2019, and 42,280 women passed away from the disease. What steps can you take to prevent it?

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

All women are at risk for breast cancer, as there are several factors beyond our control. Family history, race, current age, age of onset of menstruation, and menopause are just a few of them. There are also some risk factors we can control to reduce our risk. It’s important that we treat them seriously and take steps to improve our health.

Manage Your Weight

Weight is closely associated with the risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases if your weight increases after menopause. After menopause, most estrogen comes from your fat tissue. An increase in estrogen can increase your risk of developing cancer. Additionally, as weight increases, insulin levels generally do as well. Higher insulin levels have been linked to an increase in cancer risk. Weight management isn’t easy! Work on managing your weight by managing your food choices, physical activity, and working with a health care team.

Choose Produce

Apples, bananas, green beans, peppers… you name it! The American Cancer Society recommends eating a variety of produce. Women who eat more fruit have a slightly lower risk of developing breast cancer, and eating more vegetables may be linked to the same outcome. A diet high in carotenoids (the natural orange and red food pigment in fruits and vegetables) may play a role. These foods include melons, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Limit Alcohol

Alcohol has been shown to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink, try to limit your intake to one serving per day. Your risk is slightly elevated with one drink per day, but increases as your consumption increases. One serving of alcohol is 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Serving sizes are important. You may be drinking more than one serving without even knowing it.

Physical Activity

Always try to move more! The American Cancer Society recommends you aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. This includes walking, swimming, and dancing, among other activities. Physical activity can help you manage your weight and also decrease your risk of developing breast cancer.

Early Detection

Managing your risk factors is important, but so are testing and detection. Mammograms are low-dose x-rays that can screen for cancer in the early stages or detect changes in the breast. According to the American Cancer Society, mammograms are recommended at the following intervals.

  • Women ages 40-44: Have the option to get a mammogram yearly
  • Women ages 45-54: Get a mammogram yearly
  • Women ages 55 and older: Can switch to a mammogram every other year or can continue yearly if desired

Where are you at in these intervals? This month, take some time to devote to breast cancer prevention and early detection. Encourage others you care about to do the same. We’ve also covered the link between weight and breast cancer previously on the Your Weight Matters Blog.

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