By James N. Martin, Jr, MD
President, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Every three minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the US. While it may seem as if you have no control over cancer, research has shown that there are certain lifestyle choices that can reduce your chances of developing the disease.
The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that almost 40% of breast cancer cases in the US—roughly 70,000 cases per year—could be prevented if women stayed within a healthy weight range, exercised more, and cut down the amount of alcohol they consumed. The good news is that every woman has control over these factors.
Maintain a healthy weight. Women who gain excess weight, especially after menopause, are more prone to breast cancer. Extra body fat produces estrogen, which can fuel certain cancers, such as some breast and endometrial cancers. Find out your ideal body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat in comparison to your height and weight—at nhlbisupport.com/bmi.
Get active. Women who exercise regularly have a 20–30% reduction in breast cancer risk. Physical activity helps keeps weight in check and may have a positive effect on harmful factors that can raise the risk of cancer, such as inflammation and excess hormones.
Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, every day is a good start and may be enough to provide some protection. As your strength and stamina increase, add more time, intensity, and variety to your workout schedule to gain added benefit.
Drink less. Despite the often-touted cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, drinking has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. If you choose to drink, limit it to one drink per day. That translates into 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one 12-ounce beer.
Eat Healthier. Aim to eat a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lowfat dairy, and lean protein. By filling your plate with healthy whole foods, you have less room for foods that are high in fat, sodium, and processed sugar.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn about the factors that may raise your risk, and then try your best to reduce them. To learn more, go to nbcam.org. ?
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