De­crease Your Risk

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Motoring - Text: Pro­fes­sor Jus­tus Apf­fel­staedt, As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch and Head of the Breast Clinic at Tyger­berg Hos­pi­tal Images © is­tock­

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.

Al­co­hol Con­sump­tion

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 Breast­cancer­ 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.

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