Some minor changes in your life can go a long way for a healthy future!
Breast cancer is the world’s most prevalent cancer. According to the World Health Organization, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally in 2020. As of the end of last year, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years.
However, breast cancer is not a transmissible or infectious disease and there are no known viral or bacterial infections linked to the development of breast cancer, the U.N. body says.
While the female sex is at the strongest risk of breast cancer, roughly 0.5% to 1% of breast cancers also occur in the male sex. Usually, the treatment for men follows the same principles of management as for women.
When the disease is identified early, breast cancer treatment can be highly effective. It often consists of a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy, and medication such as hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and/or targeted biological therapy.
While the facts are daunting, some everyday practices can help cut the risk of breast cancer based on numerous research around lifestyle-induced factors. These dos and don'ts make up what scientists refer to as a "cancer-protective lifestyle "which includes avoiding alcohol, being a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, says lifestyle blog CafeMom, citing the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
According to Alice Bender, AICR's Director of Nutrition Programs, small changes like walking 10 minutes each day and increasing that by a few minutes each week, or packing a dinner with colorful vegetables every day can add up to create "positive" change that reduces the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Here are some other moves that should help you.
Guidelines issued by several health agencies suggest that all women should be eligible for screening mammograms starting at age 40 and should start getting clinical breast exams. Those who have a higher risk, like a family history of breast or related cancers like ovarian, abnormal gene test results, past history, or tumors (even if benign), should start screenings much before.
During self-breast examinations, watch out for lumps, nipple discharge, & nipple retraction as these symptoms may serve as red flags for cancer themselves.
More dense breast tissue increases risk and makes it tougher to detect cancer. You can check with your doctors about finding out what your density is and create a more suitable plan for checkups.
Getting tested for the genes commonly associated with breast cancer like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 could significantly reduce risk. Several times, risk reduction surgery such as the removal of the breasts could be a lifesaver in positive cases.
"If you're in the stage of life when you're starting a family, breastfeed each child, if you can," says Dixon. "Breastfeeding is a known breast cancer risk reducer."
Suzanne Dixon, a registered dietitian, epidemiologist, and nutrition expert with The Mesothelioma Center, says cruciferous vegetables are known to improve estrogen metabolism, a key player in breast cancer risk.
These vegetables include Arugula, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Radishes, Turnips, and Wasabi. "Lower estrogen = lower breast cancer risk," Dixon says.
A study in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health found that breast cancer risk is lower in women who live near parks, gardens, or other urban green spaces. However, the study also found that women who lived closer to agricultural areas had a higher risk, which could be tied to pesticide use.
In a five-year Spanish study, more than 4,000 women were split into three groups. One ate extra servings of extra-virgin olive oil, another added an extra serving of nuts, and the third control group reduced fat. It was found that the group that used olive oils had 62% fewer breast cancer diagnoses than the control group.
Coffee consumption was associated with a modest decrease in breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, a large study out of Sweden found. The lower risk was especially significant among women with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer - a type of cancer where tumor cells do not have a protein that binds to the hormone estrogen and can grow without the flow of the hormone.
The World Health Organization advised that limiting fresh red meat to no more than 18 ounces per week can reduce cancer risk.
Dixon says that high fiber diets help the body process and excrete estrogen. Keeping estrogen levels lower and stable over time will reduce breast cancer risk. "Go for whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit," she says.
When mice with human breast cancer cells ate the human equivalent of two servings of walnuts each day, they halted their cancer’s growth rate by 80%, a study from the Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia, found. The study also showed that the mice who ate the walnuts had 40% fewer tumors than those that did not.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Illustration by ST.art