Breast cancer affects more than 20,000 women in Canada each year—and more than 5,000 will die from the disease. If several risk factors, such as age, genetic makeup and the environment are not controllable, there are other risk factors you can keep in check. Taking preventive measures will not make you immune to cancer, but will certainly reduce your risk of developing it.
Diet and physical activity level are some of the things that can be easily changed. Good lifestyle habits also provide many other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.
Minimize your alcohol consumption as much as possible to less than one drink a day. There is a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and the risk of developing cancer. The type of alcohol does not seem to matter.
Maintain a healthy weight. There is a very clear association between obesity and breast cancer. This is especially true if you gain weight late, especially after menopause. Excess fat tissue is a source of estrogen circulating in the body. Breast cancer is associated with the amount of estrogen to which a woman has been exposed during her lifetime.
Work out! Regular physical exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and, as a result, reduces your risk of breast cancer. Plan to exercise for 30 minutes daily, most days of the week. If you have not been physically active for some time, start slowly and then gradually increase the intensity. Choose endurance exercises, such as walking, in-line skating, swimming or cross-country skiing. Practicing sports will offer your body several other benefits, such as stronger bones.
Limit the amount of fat in your diet, especially saturated fat. In addition to reducing your risk of developing several cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, consuming less fat will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Quit smoking. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase your risk of suffering from several cancers and certain lung and cardiovascular problems.
A major American study demonstrated that women with breast cancer who used hormone replacement therapy, which aims to reduce symptoms associated with menopause, had more aggressive cancer and larger tumours. Discuss the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy with your doctor before initiating or continuing this medication. Many women are able to relieve their menopausal symptoms through exercise, changes in eating habits and non-hormonal therapies.
Nothing can guarantee a cancer-free life. However, if you choose a healthy lifestyle and discuss with your doctor the preventive measures you can take, your risk of developing this disease will be greatly reduced.