The exact cause of breast cancer is unclear. However, some women are at a higher risk of developing the disease than others. Understanding your risk factors can help you find ways to improve your breast health and reduce the likelihood of getting breast cancer. Though you can’t do anything about certain risk factors, such as age, gender, and genetics, here are five things you can do to reduce your risk.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Women who are overweight and obese have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Estrogen-sensitive tissues in the breast are exposed to more estrogen in obese women than those who are of a healthy weight, and this can stimulate the growth of breast cancer. In addition, women with a body mass index of 30 or higher tend to be diagnosed with a more advanced disease than women with a lower BMI. They also face lower survival rates and a greater risk of the metastasis.
Maintaining a healthy weight can eliminate this preventable risk factor and help you improve your breast health.
2. Exercise Regularly
Did you know that women who exercise regularly are 25% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who don’t? Being physically active isn’t just good for your mental health, your energy levels, your heart, and your skin, it’s also critical to breast health.
Physical exercise can help boost your immune system, defend against obesity, and reduce levels of insulin and estrogen in the body, all of which can help prevent breast cancer.
Plus, it can help boost bone mass, which is vital for women who have undergone endocrine therapy and chemotherapy.
3. Take Your Vitamins
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. In addition, low levels can increase disease recurrence and lower survival rates in women with breast cancer. Getting enough sun exposure, or getting vitamin D through supplements or fortified foods, is an important step in improving your breast health.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to breast health. Studies have shown that the higher the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the body, the lower the incidence of metastasis.
Curcumin, an extract from turmeric, has also been linked to breast health. This potent antioxidant can be added to your diet by adding turmeric to foods, by drinking turmeric tea, or by taking capsules.
Proper iodine levels may also balance hormones and enhance breast health.
4. Understand Hormones and Breast Health
Hormones play a significant role in breast cancer. Anything that changes your hormone levels in an unnatural way, such as hormone-replacement therapy or contraceptives, can increase your risk of breast cancer because they can lead to excess estrogen compounds. Injectable contraceptives, in particular, can double your breast cancer risk.
You have a right to know how your medications may be affecting your breast health. Get informed and make evidence-based decisions about their use.
5. Get Regular Breast Cancer Screenings
Whether you book an appointment for a mammogram or clinical breast exam at a doctor’s office or take self-breast exams in the shower, make sure to screen for breast cancer regularly. Detecting the disease in its early stages is the number one way to increase your chances of survival. If you’re at a higher risk, talk to your physician about getting additional tests done.
One in every eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That’s one new diagnosis every two minutes. And every 13 minutes, one woman will die from the disease. You may not be able to completely prevent breast cancer, but you can reduce your risk with these five strategies to improve breast health.