Like many others, we are turning October pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness, an international woman’s health movement that has revolutionized the public consciousness of breast health. You are undoubtedly aware that many organizations, companies, clubs, families and individuals use this time to raise funding for research and advocation in the area of Breast Health.
There is a massive amount of information available about breast cancer, but, in honor of pink October, this blog is focusing on a few of the proactive choices women can make to influence their risks of breast cancer.
First of all, let us make it clear that only 30% of the diagnosed cases of breast cancer actually fit neatly into any of the risk factor categories, so you might or might not contract breast cancer, whether you have the genetic, environmental or lifestyle risks listed by many experts. Our report today is focused on the lifestyle risks that you can influence because certain lifestyle choices make a difference to your general health as well as your likelihood of getting breast cancer.
1. Weight: Associations have been made between breast cancer risk and a woman’s body mass. Not only carrying excess weight, but the time of life when you add your excess weight can heighten your risks. Experts suggest that the increased risk caused by obesity is worse in women who have gone through menopause in recent years as opposed to older post-menopausal women. Not surprisingly, hormones play a key part in the obesity risk, because “higher body fat levels are associated with increased production of estrogens from sources other than the ovaries.”
Did You Know? Shockingly, plus-sized post-menopausal women have estradiol levels that are up to twice as high as non-obese women within the same age group. Sadly, obese patients often have a second occurance of breast cancer, so the data shows that “obesity is associated with an increased rate of cancer recurrence and mortality.” Please remember, again, that having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease.
2. Dietary factors: Choices in what you eat and how you cook it, can reduce your risk for breast cancer. “Many studies indicate that postmenopausal women who consume diets that are low in fiber and high in fat, especially saturated fats, have increased risks for breast cancer.” Again, the chemistry of estrogen comes into play.
“Fat stores toxins and increases the amount of estrogen in the blood. Some studies suggest that women who consume high-fat Western diets have more estrogen in their blood and less urinary excretion of estrogen as compared with women who eat higher-fiber, low-fat diets.” Studies have also shown that what you eat in adolescence can actually attract later cancer risks.
3. Alcohol Consumption: It’s a fact that the risk of breast cancer increases with your alcohol consumption. Two or more daily drinks have been associated with increased your breast cancer risk. Why? Again, it’s all about the hormones. “Moderate drinking leads to significant increases in circulating estradiol levels.” Secondly, alcohol transforms into acetaldehyde when your body processes it. This is a known carcinogenic chemical. It can cause harmful effects on DNA synthesis, and inhibit cell repair.
4. Smoking: This risk is surrounded with hot controversy, with some experts arguing that cigarette smoke is anti-estrogenic. Other experts cite the direct carcinogenic effects of smoking and affirm that this enhances your risk for breast cancer. At any rate, since smoking is also bad for your heart and your lungs, why take the risk?
5. Exercise level: Many studies have proven that a healthy amount of physical activity decreases your risk of developing breast cancer, especially in your post-menopausal years. There are fewer studies that prove the protection level for pre-menopausal women. One thing is certain: a healthy level of physical activity enhances your quality of life and health at any age, so again, why take the risks?
Perhaps it is time in your life to become more proactive against breast cancer as well as other health hazards. When you read about these avoidable breast cancer risks, we do not want you to feel frightened, guilty or perplexed.
At the Center, Dr. Kalidas and his staff will provide you with the tools you need to make good choices about your health. We are committed to helping you, in the words of the breastcancer.org campaign, “live green and think pink,” to reduce your chances of breast cancer.