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Published on October 26, 2018

woman exercising with pink dumbbells

Five Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer

By Traci Redmond, CNP, Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care

Many factors can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer, but at the same time, there are many opportunities for women to take control and decrease risk.

Multiple studies have shown direct relationships between healthy lifestyles and cancer reduction. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 270,000 new breast cancer cases will diagnosed this year, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in both the United States and the world. But more than 80,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented with lifestyle changes.

Here are a few:

Be active: Engaging in 90 to 180 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by up to 25 percent. Moderate-intensity physical activity can be measured by the “talk test.” If you can talk, but not sing, during your activity, it is moderate intensity. So with just 30 minutes of it five days each week – be it brisk walking, water aerobics, bicycling, tennis, hiking or something else, you could cut a quarter of your risk. Of course more is better, and we could all do better. Research has estimated that 40 percent of women are not meeting current guidelines for physical activity.

Control your weight: Weight gain before and after menopause can increase risk for breast cancer. The ovaries produce most of a woman’s estrogen before menopause, and after menopause, excess fat tissue creates it. So if you have extra fat, you can see increases in estrogen, which in turn increases breast cancer risk. Ideal body weight is calculated based on a person’s height and weight, and there are many online tools to help you find yours. By maintaining a stable weight throughout your lifetime, you’re not just fighting cancer risk. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention, cholesterol level reduction, and reduced blood pressure – they all come along with a healthier weight.

Implement a healthy diet: Eating healthy supports a healthy body and boosts the immune system, therefore decreasing your risk for breast cancer and other conditions. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, with the goal of eating four or more cups of vegetables per day, along with one cup of fruit. Limit trans-fats found in fried foods, margarine and many store-bought baked goods. Look to substitute with healthy fats found in nuts, avocados, chia seeds and olive oil. Skip red meat and replace with chicken or fish and select whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas.

Limit alcohol: Excess alcohol is linked to breast cancer risk, and women who have one alcoholic drink per day have small increases, while those who drink two to three drinks per day have a 20 percent higher risk compared to women who do not drink alcohol.

Avoid tobacco use: Although research into the direct risk associated with smoking and breast cancer continues, the Surgeon General’s report from 2014 concluded there is “suggestive but not sufficient” evidence that links smoking with breast cancer. We do know smoking can lead to other cancers, as well as chronic and lethal illnesses, so its possible link to breast cancer is just one more reason to avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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