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Think Pink, Live Green: A Step-By-Step Guide to Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Think Pink, Live Green: A Step-By-Step Guide to Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer

After decades of progress in improved diagnostics, better treatments, a deeper understanding of genetic risk factors, and stronger support networks, breast cancer still remains the most common cancer in women. And what’s even more concerning: the overall incidence of breast cancer is projected to double globally by year 2040 and occur more frequently in younger women. Now, more than ever, we need to focus our efforts on finding ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

To raise awareness and help more people to prevent breast cancer, we have gathered important risk-reducing steps by Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., breast oncologist and  president and founder of the nonprofit organization Breastcancer.org, the world’s #1 online breast health and breast cancer resource.

 

1.Avoid Taking Extra Hormones

It’s best to avoid exposing your body to extra hormones, such as estrogen and progestin, which are contained in medications such as birth control pills and menopausal hormone replacement therapy. You can limit your risk by taking the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.

 

2.Get To A Healthy Weight And Stick To It

Keeping to a healthy weight is mandatory for breast cancer risk reduction.

 

3.Get Regular Exercise

Exercise is important throughout your life, especially during pregnancy and even as an older woman. Try to get at least 3-4 hours of exercise a week, but 5-7 hours is better.

 

4.Limit Alcohol Use

The risk of breast cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. It’s best to reduce consumption to 5 or fewer drinks per week. Less is better

 

5.Stop Smoking

If you smoke, stop. If you are a non-smoker or smoker, limit exposure to second- and third-hand smoke.

 

6.Avoid Unnecessary Radiation

Radiation therapy or diagnostic procedures using radiation should be used only if necessary. Pregnant women should not be exposed to any radiation. Mammography in adult women is considered safe.

 

7.Get Enough Vitamin D

Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels and recommend the right daily dose. The best sources of vitamin D are sun exposure, vitamin D3 supplements, and oily fish. Some dairy products contain or are fortified with vitamin D. Organic sources of fat-free dairy products are your best choice.

 

8.Eat Your Fruits And Veggies

Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds and spices as your main course ingredients for most meals. They are your key source of nutrients with relatively few calories. Choose different colors of produce to obtain the full spectrum of complementary nutrients that your body needs.

 

9.Select Foods And Beverages Carefully

  • Many of the pesticides and other synthetic chemicals used in agriculture, food processing, and food packaging end up in your food and that’s the main way they get into you.
  • Washing and peeling fruits and vegetables helps reduce the amount of pesticides on the outside, but some pesticides can still remain on the inside.
  • Buying organic foods and beverages can reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
  • Limit your use of ready-made or processed foods and buy raw ingredients and prepare the food yourself.
  • Soy foods, such as edamame, tofu, and soy milk, are a good and cheap source of protein. But it’s best to avoid regular consumption of concentrated soy products, such as soy protein powder, because they may stimulate breast cell activity.
  • Buy poultry, meats, and fish that were raised without antibiotics.
  • To avoid unknown risks of food from animals treated with extra hormones, only buy organic sources of nonfat dairy products and organic or 100% grass-fed beef.
  • It’s best to choose small, young fish—preferably wild caught rather than farm-raised.
  • Buy whole foods, such as whole grains, because they fill you up more easily and release their energy more slowly during digestion compared to highly processed foods.
  • Limit your consumption of refined sugar and flour because they release their energy quickly, producing blood sugar spikes and hormone elevations that might overstimulate breast cells.
  • When eating meat, follow a 1/3 meat or fish,2/3 vegetable ratio to get the most nutrients and to limit animal fat. Try eating different meats—poultry, pork, lamb, beef, goat, or deer.
  • Eat fish at least once a week. It tends to be low in fat and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many positive effects on your body’s health.

 

10.Know Your Labels

It’s important to know that words such as “natural,” “simple,” “pure,” “real,” and “free-range” on food labels don’t have official definitions and their use isn’t regulated. “No hormones or antibiotics added” doesn’t mean they weren’t given to the animal before it was butchered.

Look for organically grown or produced food with stickers that show the USDA organic symbol or a price look-up (PLU) code beginning with the #9. These products have been produced and processed according to national organic standards as set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

11.Know Your Packaging

Buy your food fresh, frozen, dried (beans, seeds), or in bags or glass jars. Limit your use of canned foods and plastics to avoid exposure to the chemicals that can leach out of the container and into your food.

Only use plastics with the recycling code #1, 2, 4, and 5, and avoid plastics with recycling codes #3, 6, and 7.

 

12.Avoid Empty Calories

Avoid high-calorie foods and drinks that offer little nutritional value. Think of each meal and snack as an opportunity for healthy nourishment. For example, rather than an apple granola bar with few nutrients and lots of added sweeteners, enjoy an apple and a handful of low-fat granola instead.

 

13.Eat Small Meals

Consuming small amounts of food throughout the day limits overstimulation of breast cells and provides other healthy benefits. It’s also the best way to meet your body’s steady energy requirement and help with weight management. Plus, it means more meals to look forward to.

 

14.Cook Real Food Get your food from the farm, not the factory.

Homemade foods usually contain higher-quality ingredients, lower calories, and fewer additives. Processed prepared foods are often full of fat, sugar, salt, fillers, fake ingredients, and preservatives, and are often high in calories. Restaurant food is usually loaded with hidden calories, too. You can save money and keep your weight down by cooking at home.

When you do eat out, plan ahead. Eat something light and healthy before going out in order to avoid overeating once you get there. When ordering, stick to small portion sizes or two appetizers rather than an appetizer and entree. Cooking real food at home is also an opportunity to promote and sustain a family habit of eating healthy and having family meals. If we set the example, our girls are more likely to eat well throughout their lifetimes.

 

15.Choose Healthy Cooking Methods

There are many ways to prepare food that maintains or enhances its nutrients, including sautéing, stir-frying, roasting, baking, poachingand steaming. You can microwave your food, but not in plastic! Broiling and grilling also are healthy methods, as long as food is not blackened. Avoid deep-frying.

 

16.Use Safe Cookware, Storage Containers, Serving Items When cooking, storing, freezing, reheating, and serving food, it’s best to use stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron, glass, and enamel covered metal containers, pots, and dishes. Do not use non-stick pots and pans at very high heat, because they can release harmful chemicals. Avoid cooking or heating food up in plastic, even if the container claims to be “microwave safe.”

 

17.Choose Safe Personal Care Products

It is best to buy products that are made without fragrances, hormones, and preservatives. You can also find new solutions that don’t involve heavy use of commercial products. For example, rather than reapplying lots of sunscreen throughout the day, use sun-protective clothing and a wide-brim hat and avoid the most intense sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Instead of a moisturizer with a ton of ingredients you can’t pronounce, choose cocoa butter or an oil that’s good enough to eat, such as olive or coconut oil.

 

18.Use “Green” Household Products

Consider organic or “green” household supplies that tend to be safer for you and the environment. 

 

19.Manage Your Emotional Stress

Emotional strain can ruin your quality of life and may even affect your breast health. Fear of breast cancer, depression, and anxiety can drain all your energy and steal the joy of living. Critically judging yourself and others and holding onto unrealistic expectations adds to your emotional burden. Anything you can do to reduce your stress and enhance your emotional comfort and joy will help your body recover better from the wear and tear of modern life. Focus on the present rather than worry about the past and future. Adjust your expectations to make them reasonable. Don’t take on too much at once. Break down tasks into doable chunks. Try to see a disappointment as a valuable life lesson rather than a terrible mistake or a dismal failure. Mindful measures such as meditation, yoga, visualization exercises, and prayer can be valuable additions to your daily or weekly routine. These practices can reduce your emotional stress and build your energy, confidence, and determination to take care of yourself.

 

20.Manage Your Physical Strain

You can only feel your best when your whole body is functioning well. It’s important to address any active medical problem, such as metabolic conditions and persistent low-grade infections. For example, when blood sugars are out of control for extended periods of time, the risk of breast cancer may increase. Your doctor can help you keep diabetes in check with nutritional counseling, changes in diet, and if necessary, with medication, and recommendations for support groups. Taking good care of yourself on a daily basis is also a key to keeping you healthy and feeling your best. Exercise boosts your overall health including your breast health. Your kidneys and bowels will run regularly and smoothly if you are well-hydrated and consume a high-fiber diet. Drink mostly water rather than sodas or juices. Aim for at least 25 gm of fiber a day through foods and supplements. Strengthen your bones with calcium as well as vitamin D. Many doctors recommend 1200 mg of calcium/ day in divided doses and 600-2000 IU vitamin D3/day (depending on your unique situation). Your immune system will function much better when areas of inflammation and active sores are treated. For example, something as simple as brushing and flossing your teeth helps prevent inflammation of your gums and other tissues in your mouth.

 

21.Sleep Well

Your cells experience many insults and injuries throughout the day from the normal wear and tear of living. The good news is, your body has great capacity to heal the damage, keep your cells growing normally, and make you feel good. Repair is a continuous process, but much of the healing and internal housekeeping occurs at night. So it’s important to get enough sleep by limiting caffeine use, keeping your bedroom quiet and dark, minimizing daytime naps, managing snoring and hot flashes, and avoiding other interruptions.

22.Consider Earlier Pregnancy

It can take a lot to have a baby—a partner, time, energy, security, and resources, as well as the ability to get pregnant in the first place. When and if your circumstances are aligned with this goal, consider starting your family sooner rather than later. Scientific research and population studies tracking the impact of pregnancy and breastfeeding on the risk of breast cancer strongly suggest that earlier pregnancy and longer duration of breastfeeding can help lower the risk of breast cancer.

 

23.Know Your Personal And Family History

It’s critically important to know your personal and family history of cancer as well as other risk factors. You may be at high risk for breast cancer if you have a strong family history of breast and related cancers, an inherited breast cancer gene abnormality, a prior history of breast cancer, a prior breast biopsy that showed early abnormal breast changes, or if you received radiation therapy for acne or Hodgkin’s disease as a girl or young woman. Get information about any type of cancer in your blood relatives from both your mother and father’s sides of the family. Also, find out each relative’s age at the time of cancer diagnosis. Be sure to share this information with your doctor and update your file if any new cancer diagnoses are made. If you have had a breast biopsy, get a copy of your pathology report and discuss it with your doctor. Certain types of non-cancerous breast changes may increase your risk of breast cancer in the future.

24. Take Extra Steps To Reduce High Risk

Women and girls at high risk for breast cancer should take extra steps to help reduce their risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer or experiencing a breast cancer recurrence. Genetic counseling, genetic testing, risk-reducing medications, and preventive (prophylactic) surgery are all options to discuss with your physician.

 

Start Now And Try Your Best Change is a journey. You have to start somewhere. Whether it’s making the choice to avoid plastics or rethinking your food choices, roll up your sleeves and get busy. Some changes may be easy to make. Some may feel out of reach. You can only do the best you can—and you should feel good about your efforts. Whatever first step you take is one in the right direction. One step leads to two steps and then more

 

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