Decrease Your Risk
We all know that smart lifestyle choices directly translate to a healthy mind and body, but did you know that certain lifestyle choices, some of which we partake in regularly, actually increase our risk of breast cancer?
According to the Radiological Society of South Africa, one in four South Africans are affected by cancer through diagnosis of family, friends, or self. If we look directly at breast cancer, the stats show that one in 29 women in South Africa will be affected by it, making it the most common cancer in women; in urbanised populations, this figure is more likely to be one in 10.
A 2016 study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyons, France, earmarked lifestyle choices you can make to lower your risk of breast cancer. These include drastically minimising alcohol intake, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
In the same IARC study, it concludes that all levels of alcohol consumption – even light drinking – are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. The fact that
breast cancer risk is directly proportional to alcohol consumption has been known for a long time, but it must be borne in mind that the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer is a very complex one. There are different types of alcohol as there are various ingredients added to alcoholic beverages.
Furthermore, the way alcohol is metabolised is genetically determined and highly individual; therefore, the risk of breast cancer caused by alcohol consumption is not only dependent on the quantity consumed but also on how the individual metabolises alcohol.
We all know that alcohol consumption in large quantities is not good for you, but one should also work with the assumption that people are going to have an element of unhealthy living in their lifestyles – we are not all perfect. So, best is to stick to the safest path of moderation of a maximum of one glass of wine a day. Smoking
Aside from the fact that smoking causes a number of health problems, it is also directly related to a higher risk of breast cancer. Research has shown that both active and passive smoking can increase breast cancer risk, and this is higher especially for women who start smoking before they have their first child. According to the American Cancer Society, women who start smoking before their first menstrual cycle have a 61% higher risk of breast cancer, while those who started smoking after their first cycle, but 11 or more years before having a child have a 45% higher risk.
The recommendation from this and similar studies is to avoid picking up a cigarette in the first place. If you are already a smoker, now is the time to quit.
According to the University of Illinois College of Medicine, some reassuring things to know about quitting is that within 20 minutes of having your last cigarette your heart rate drops to normal, after two hours your blood pressure goes back to normal, after 12 hours carbon monoxide levels in your body decrease and oxygen levels increase, and three days after quitting, the nicotine is completely out of your system. In terms of cancer, it may take 10 years for the benefits to be seen, but if you quit smoking, your risk of developing certain cancers will be half that of a smoker. Exercise and Body Weight
Four hours of strenuous exercise per week can decrease your risk of developing breast cancer by about 30% to 40%.
If a woman gains 20 kg or more between the age of 20 and 40, her risk of developing breast cancer increases by about 50%. To put this into perspective, research on Breastcancernow.org indicates that in a group of 100 women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 22.5 and 24.9 (the upper range of a healthy weight), about eight or nine will probably develop breast cancer after the age of 50. In contrast, in 100 women with a BMI of 30 or more (which is obese), about 11 or 12 women will probably develop breast cancer. Therefore, being obese leads to about three extra women out of every 100 developing breast cancer after the age of 50. Therefore, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most effective methods to prevent breast cancer.
This month being Breast Cancer Awareness Month is as good a time as any to take your health into your own hands by adopting a healthier lifestyle in order to decrease your risk of breast cancer.