October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are over 3.1 million women in the United States that have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, death rates have drastically dropped almost 40% in the last two decades. This is due to early-detection methods, increased awareness, and advances in treatment options. Some of the factors that leave women at risk of breast cancer are genetic or biological. On the other hand, some factors that increase women’s risk are completely controllable lifestyle habits.
All women are at risk of breast cancer, but there are factors that women can change that decrease that risk significantly. Here are three easy things you can do to prevent breast cancer:
Not only can daily exercise help women maintain healthy, active lifestyles, but it can also decrease the risk of breast cancer. Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50 and tend to be postmenopausal. Research shows that women who are overweight or obese after going through menopause have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease. This is due to the storage of estrogen, a hormone our ovaries stop producing after menopause. Estrogen promotes cell-overgrowth and after menopause, the excess estrogen is stored in fat. This allows for less hormone regulation. The less fat on a postmenopausal woman, the less of a chance she has of cell-overgrowth and breast cancer development.
Because of this, it is apt for women to engage in daily, moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes. The Harrisburg Area YMCA offers many ways for you to exercise regularly. Some of the moderate exercises often recommended are:
- Dancing – check out all of our dance fitness offerings.
- Leisurely biking – try out a stationary bike in our wellness centers!
- Brisk walking – take a walk on a treadmill or one of our indoor tracks.
- Yoga – the Y offers several types of Yoga based on your skills and pace.
- Doubles Tennis
- General yard & garden maintenance
Limit Alcohol Consumption and Avoid Tobacco
Avoiding tobacco products or eliminating them entirely is not just a great way to decrease your risk for getting breast cancer. It might just be the best thing to do for your health overall!. Tobacco products can leave women susceptible not only breast cancer but to an array of other health issues. The YMCA Center for Healthy Living offers Stop Smoking Programs to help you cut back and quit.
Research shows that women who consume a lot of alcohol regularly are at a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who don’t. It is recommended for women to eliminate alcohol consumption completely or limit their alcohol consumption to one drink per day.
Attend Regular Breast Cancer Screenings
Not only should women take preventative measures of even initially developing breast cancer, but women should also take advantage of early-detection methods as well. Health professionals recommend that women over 40 years old should have mammograms performed annually. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts that can detect signs of breast cancer. Often, these tests can detect irregularities up to three years before the ability to feel a lump. Doctors sometimes recommend women to do regular self-examination as a proactive method of early detection. Women should also make sure they attend their annual physical examinations with their primary doctor for total coverage of all early-detection methods.
Each year, around 30% of newly diagnosed cancers are breast cancer. It’s important to know what preventative measures we can take to avoid a breast cancer diagnosis. Staying informed on not only breast information but other health and safety information could end up saving you or a loved one. Check out www.consumersafety.org to read more about breast cancer risk and prevention. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor right away.
–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator, in collaboration with Darian Carrow of Consumer Safety