Breast Cancer Prevention

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Breast Cancer Prevention

This is a  great comprehensive guide taken in part from www.health.com on how to cut your breast cancer risk at any age. It is a decade-by-decade guide because your needs and risk will change with your age. A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 233 when she’s in her 30s and rises to 1 in 8 by the time she’s reached 85.

Breast cancer research offers more and more evidence that you can influence your own breast cancer future by picking up some good habits—and your age says a lot about which habits are key.

The following decade-by-decade guide suggests a few steps that every woman can take to protect her breast health, with extra emphasis on monitoring any changes so that problems can be caught early, when cancer is easier to treat.

Here’s what you can do to cut your breast cancer risk

IF YOU’RE IN YOUR 20s…

Most twentysomethings are too busy finishing school, launching careers, and starting families to consider their risk of breast cancer. And it is relatively rare: The probability of a woman in her 20s developing the disease is only 1 in 1,837. But your 20s are the ideal time to start reducing your risk of getting the disease in the future. Here’s what you can do.

  • Get a clinical breast exam.
    These tests involve a physical exam by a medical professional and should be repeated at least every three years during your 20s.
  • Be breast aware.
    Though some doctors now consider breast self-exams optional, it’s a smart idea to become familiar with your breasts so you notice any small changes, which you should then bring to the attention of your doctor ASAP.
  • Find out if you’re at high risk.
    If breast cancer runs in your family, talk to your doctor about whether you need stepped up screening.
  • Drink less alcohol.
    “This means no more than one drink per day,” says Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, the director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and coauthor with Dr. Gralow of Breast Fitness: An Optimal Exercise and Health Plan for Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer. “Alcohol use increases your risk for breast cancer.” Sadly, this doesn’t mean you can “save up” a week’s worth of drinks for a big Saturday night on the town.
  • If you have children, breast-feed them for at least six months.
    Some studies suggest that breast-feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, particularly if a woman continues breast feeding for one and a half to two years.
  • Stay active.
    Studies suggest that exercising three to four hours per week at moderate or vigorous levels can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 20%.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
    While the relationship between diet and cancer is far from established, research suggests that a plant-based diet is associated with reduced risks for several cancers.

IF YOU’RE IN YOUR 30s…

Breast cancer rates for women in their 30s are still relatively low, but this is the time to get serious about monitoring your breasts for any changes. Here’s some good breast-healthy behavior to cultivate during this decade.

  • Get a clinical breast exam every three years.
    Also monitor your own breasts, and if you notice any changes, alert your doctor. If you’re at high risk due to a close family history, your doctor may want you to start getting annual mammograms and MRIs as well.
  • Drink less alcohol.
    Don´t forget this means no more than one drink per day and no saving up all your allowance to dink them all at once!
  • If you have children, breast-feed them for at least six months.
  • Avoid eating too much red and processed meat.
    Limit your intake of red meat to 4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) per day on average, says Dr. McTiernan. She also recommends avoiding meats such as sausages and bologna. “The chemicals that are used to process the meats have been found to cause several kinds of cancers,” she notes.
  • If you’re at high risk of getting breast cancer, ask your doctor whether you’re a good candidate for chemoprevention.
    Tamoxifen is approved for use in premenopausal women at high risk of developing breast cancer. “While the average woman should not take a drug to reduce the risk of breast cancer,” explains Julie R. Gralow, MD, the director of breast medical oncology at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, “I would consider them for a woman who’s had a biopsy that shows an increased risk for development of cancer.”
  • Stay active.
    Exercising three to four hours per week at moderate or vigorous levels can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 20%.

IF YOU’RE IN YOUR 40s…

Women in their 40s need to be more vigilant than ever about their breast screening as cancer rates start to increase at this time of life: The probability of a woman in her 40s developing the disease is 1 in 70. Implementing healthy habits such as these becomes even more important.

  • Schedule an annual mammogram and clinical exam, and check your own breasts.
    The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older get a mammogram and a clinical breast exam every year. Also, stay familiar with your own breasts: If you notice any changes, tell your doctor about them immediately. Chances are good that any changes you notice, such as fibrocystic breast changes, are harmless, but it’s still essential to have anything new or unusual checked out.
  • Drink less alcohol.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stay active.
    “We found in the Women’s Health Initiative that there was a benefit to exercising in middle to late years even in women who were inactive when young,” says Dr. McTiernan.
  • Consider chemoprevention.

MORE TO CONSIDER:

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to cancer-causing substances.

Radiation and some chemicals are known to cause cancer, says Dr. McTiernan. “Make sure that any physician who orders an X-ray for you, especially high dose ones like CT scans, knows how many previous X-rays you have had,” advises Dr. McTiernan. “If it is not an emergency situation, ask if there is an alternative examination that would suit your situation, such as an ultrasound or MRI, neither of which involves radiation.” (Your doctor can help you weigh the relative risk of momentary exposure to radiation versus not having an X-ray or CT scan that may be medically necessary.)

“Also,” adds Dr. McTiernan, “if you work in an industry or occupation where you are exposed to radiation or chemicals, be very careful to follow the regulations of your company and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

Scientists have identified more than 200 potential breast carcinogens. Learn more about them in this broad analysis of existing research from the American Cancer Society.

As a basic rule of thumb, when faced with food, cosmetics, or household products that are loaded with preservatives or other artificial substances, opt when possible for products containing mostly natural ingredients.

Breast cancer experts also advise that you educate yourself about the reality behind all those breast cancer myths out there.

IF YOU’RE IN YOUR 50s…

As menopause hits, breast cancer rates start to rise, and 1 in 40 women will get the disease in this decade of her life. Taking care of your health becomes more important than ever. Here are the key things you need to do to stay healthy.

  • Schedule an annual mammogram and clinical exam and check your own breasts.
    The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older get a mammogram and a clinical breast exam every year. Also, stay familiar with your own breasts: If you notice any changes, tell your doctor about them immediately.
  • Drink less alcohol.
    A recent National Cancer Institute study of postmenopausal women found that those who had one to two small drinks a day were 32% more likely to develop the most common type of breast cancer (that with tumors that are positive for both estrogen and progesterone receptors). Women who had three or more drinks daily had as high as a 51% increased risk for hormone-sensitive breast cancer.
  • Maintain your body weight, or lose weight if you’re overweight.
    Research has shown that being overweight or obese (especially if you’re past menopause) increases your risk, especially if you put on the weight as an adult. And a study released in March 2008 by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston showed that obese and overweight women also had lower breast cancer survival rates and a greater chance of more aggressive disease than average weight or underweight women.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stay active.
  • Avoid (or limit) hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
    “Hormone replacement therapy, also known as postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT), definitely increases your [breast cancer] risk,” says Julie R. Gralow, MD, the director of breast medical oncology at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “But for women with major menopause issues, I’m not opposed to limited courses of HRT—say a five-year period, but not decades.”
  • If you’re at high risk of getting breast cancer, ask your doctor whether you’re a good candidate for chemoprevention.

MORE TO CONSIDER:

  • Get enough Vitamin D.

Although the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 400 IUs, some researchers think this amount is too low, reports Dr. McTiernan. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, noting the beneficial effect that vitamin D has been observed to have on breast cancer risk, suggested that higher levels—1,000 IUs of vitamin D a day—may be a convenient and cost-effective way to reduce that risk. (The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies advises that daily intake of vitamin D above 2,000 IU could be dangerous.) Vitamin D occurs naturally in fish and eggs and is commonly found in fortified dairy products. Dr. McTiernan advises that women can get an inexpensive blood test from their doctors to check their vitamin D levels; doctors can recommend supplements as needed.

IF YOU’RE IN YOUR 60s OR OLDER…

The average age of a woman who receives a breast cancer diagnosis is 62, which is why women in their 60s need to be more vigilant than ever about breast health.

  • Continue getting annual mammograms and annual clinical exams.
    Screening becomes more important the older you get because your risk keeps going up, says Julie R. Gralow, MD, the director of breast medical oncology at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “Fortunately, the older you get, the more fatty your breasts, and the easier it is to read mammograms,” she notes. And while mammograms and clinical exams don’t prevent cancer, they can prevent complications from treatment. “If you find it early, you can just get a lumpectomy and you may not need chemo.”
  • Track any changes in your own breasts.
    The older you are, the easier it is to do breast self-exams (BSEs), because breasts are less dense, says Dr. Gralow. Here are instructions on how to check your own breasts.
  • Drink less alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly.

Article taken in part from www.health.com

Disclaimer

All content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

If this article was helpful, you might like to read these:

Stress & Breast Cancer

The Five Steps of a Self Exam

Breast Cancer: What You Need To Know Now

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