Breast can­cer preven­tion: How to re­duce your risk

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Health Mat­ters Sife­lani Tsiko

BREAST can­cer preven­tion starts with healthy habits such as lim­it­ing al­co­hol and stay­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive. Un­der­stand what you can do to re­duce your breast can­cer risk.

If you’re con­cerned about breast can­cer, you might be won­der­ing if there are steps you can take to­wards breast can­cer preven­tion. Some risk fac­tors, such as fam­ily his­tory, can’t be changed. How­ever, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk. What can I do to re­duce my risk of breast can­cer? Lifestyle changes have been shown in stud­ies to de­crease breast can­cer risk even in high-risk women. The fol­low­ing are steps you can take to lower your risk:

Limit al­co­hol. The more al­co­hol you drink, the greater your risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer. The gen­eral rec­om­men­da­tion based on re­search on the ef­fect of al­co­hol on breast can­cer risk is to limit your­self to less than one drink per day as even small amounts in­crease risk.

Don’t smoke. Ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ev­i­dence sug­gests a link be­tween smok­ing and breast can­cer risk, par­tic­u­larly in pre­menopausal women. In ad­di­tion, not smok­ing is one of the best things you can do for your over­all health.

Con­trol your weight. Be­ing over­weight or obese in­creases the risk of breast can­cer. This is es­pe­cially true if obe­sity oc­curs later in life, par­tic­u­larly af­ter menopause.

Be phys­i­cally ac­tive. Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can help you main­tain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps pre­vent breast can­cer. For most healthy adults, ex­perts rec­om­mend at least 150 min­utes a week of mod­er­ate aer­o­bic ac­tiv­ity or 75 min­utes of vig­or­ous aer­o­bic ac­tiv­ity weekly, plus strength train­ing at least twice a week.

Breast-feed. Breast-feed­ing might play a role in breast can­cer preven­tion. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the pro­tec­tive ef­fect.

Limit dose and du­ra­tion of hor­mone ther­apy. Com­bi­na­tion hor­mone ther­apy for more than three to five years in­creases the risk of breast can­cer. If you’re tak­ing hor­mone ther­apy for menopausal symp­toms, ask your doc­tor about other op­tions. You might be able to man­age your symp­toms with non­hor­monal ther­a­pies and med­i­ca­tions. If you de­cide that the ben­e­fits of short-term hor­mone ther­apy out­weigh the risks, use the low­est dose that works for you and con­tinue to have your doc­tor mon­i­tor the length of time you are tak­ing hor­mones.

Avoid ex­po­sure to ra­di­a­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion. Med­i­cal-imag­ing meth­ods, such as com­put­erised to­mog­ra­phy, use high doses of ra­di­a­tion. While more stud­ies are needed, some re­search sug­gests a link be­tween breast can­cer and ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure. Re­duce your ex­po­sure by hav­ing such tests only when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. Can a healthy diet pre­vent breast can­cer? Eat­ing a healthy diet might de­crease your risk of some types of can­cer, as well as di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and stroke. For ex­am­ple, women who eat a Mediter­ranean diet sup­ple­mented with ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a re­duced risk of breast can­cer. The Mediter­ranean diet fo­cuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Peo­ple who fol­low the Mediter­ranean diet choose healthy fats, like olive oil, over but­ter and fish in­stead of red meat. Main­tain­ing a healthy weight also is a key fac­tor in breast can­cer preven­tion.

Is there a link be­tween birth con­trol pills and breast can­cer?

A num­ber of older stud­ies sug­gested that birth con­trol pills which of­ten had higher es­tro­gen doses prior to 1985 slightly in­creased the risk of breast can­cer, es­pe­cially among younger women. In these stud­ies, how­ever, 10 years af­ter dis­con­tin­u­ing birth con­trol pills women’s risk of breast can­cer re­turned to the same level as that of women who never used oral con­tra­cep­tives. Cur­rent ev­i­dence does not sup­port an in­crease in breast can­cer with to­day’s birth con­trol pills. What else can I do? Be vig­i­lant about breast can­cer de­tec­tion. If you no­tice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, con­sult your doc­tor. Also, ask your doc­tor when to be­gin mam­mo­grams and other screen­ings based on your per­sonal his­tory. – Mayo Clinic.

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