October has always been breast cancer awareness month… okay not always, but since 1985. But why do we care? Well statistics say 1 out of every 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer. I sure as heck know more than eight women. That makes it likely that breast cancer could affect me or a loved one. If you are reading this, I bet you know someone who is battling this disease. It goes beyond wearing pink one month a year.
There are some non-controllable factors that may up your risk. These include…
Gender – This one is kind of obvious, but about 1% of cases are in men.
Genetics/Family History – about 5-10% of cases occur due to a hereditary gene mutation.
Breast Tissue Density – the denser the tissue, the higher your chances
Mensuration – if your cycle started before the age of 12 or if you started menopause after the age of 55, your risks are higher
That may seem like a lot that we can’t control but it is not all gloom and doom. There are controllable factors that can either up or lower your risk!
Alcohol – Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Avoiding binge drinking can be key if cutting out drinking all together is not an option. Even just cutting out a few drinks a week can make a difference. Looking for ways to keep beverages fun and interesting if you opt for alcohol free. I’ve got you covered:
– Use fun ice trays (I have hearts, skulls and honeycomb).
– Opt for sparkling water or Kombucha.
– Use those drink glasses! Anything feels fancy in crystal or a champagne flute.
– Craft up fun mocktails. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
– Add edible glitter, flowers or berries to your drink for flare.
Weight/BMI – BMI data shows that if you are in the “overweight” or “obese” (over 25) BMI categories, your risk increases significantly. Keep in mind that health comes in many shapes and sizes. Some ways you can influence this include what you eat and how you move. Your doctor can help you discuss what a healthy weight looks like for you.
Physical Activity – Speaking of how you move, research shows a link between exercising regularly and reducing your risk. You want to aim for moderate – vigorous level activity for 4-7 hours per week to see this benefit. If you work a sedentary job, aim to spread movement throughout your day even if it is just getting up to walk a lap around the office every top of the hour.
Smoking – Smoking ups your chances for many devastating diseases and cancers. Your best bet is to avoid participating and be aware of 2nd hand smoke. The American Lung Association has FREE resources to help you or a loved one quit if you are interested.
Diet – Diet is thought to be partly responsible for about 30-40% of all cancers. With that being said there is not one magic food or diet that automatically reduces your risk. The key is to consume a variety of foods so that your nutrient needs are satisfied. My favorite way to do this is a veggie packed salad or trying new in season fruit.
And how could I almost forget one of the best ways to be proactive when it comes to breast cancer – Screenings & self exams. These are not ways to prevent breast cancer but they do up your chances of catching it early boosting your chance for survival. Talk to your doctor about what screening options are best for you and how often you should get them done. Self-exams are great because they can be done for free and in your home. The graphics below can help walk you through this:
I know this can be scary and emotional stuff, especially if you or a loved one has seen the effects of breast cancer first hand. For some, this month is a great time to wear pink, but for others it is heavy. Sending you well wishes in this time. Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month ladies (and any gents that read this).