October 1st is the official start of National Breast Cancer Awareness month so what better way to start the month than spreading the word and sharing information.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. In 2014 there have been approximately 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women.  The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%). However, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1989, with the decreases believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment.

There are some risk factors of breast cancer that cannot be prevented:

  • Being female
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • Age
  • Never having borne a child / first child after age 30
  • First menstrual period at an early age
  • A history of benign breast disease that require biopsies

However, there are some lifestyle choices that we can make on a daily basis that have been scientifically proven to help our odds:

  • Limit alcoholic beverages – Compared with non-drinkers, women who consume 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk but those who have 2-5 drinks daily increase their chances of getting breast cancer by 1½ times
  • Stop smoking – Studies have found that long-term heavy smoking is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially those who started at a younger age.  Stopping smoking can reduce this risk back down.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – There is a very clear link between obesity and breast cancer.  Excess fatty tissue is a source of circulating estrogen in your body and breast cancer is linked to how much estrogen you are exposed to in your life.
  • Exercise – Helps you maintain a healthy weight; Aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 – 7 days a week.
  • Vitamin A – Retinoids (natural or synthetic forms of Vitamin A) have the ability to destroy or inhibit the growth of cancer cells.  Some natural high A vitamin foods are sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens and butternut squash.
  • Flaxseed – This is particularly high in phytoestrogen, lignan which appears to decrease estrogen production and can inhibit cancer growth.  Sprinkle some on your salad or breakfast cereal.

Finally, a couple of “myths” about breast cancer:

  • Myth #1 – Bras cause cancer – there is absolutely no scientific or clinical basis for this claim
  • Myth #2 – Breast implants cause an increased risk – they can cause scar tissue to form and make it harder to see breast tissue on a standard mammogram but there are special X-rays that may be used to assist.
  • Myth #3 – Men do not get breast cancer – approximately 1700 men are diagnosed per year
  • Myth #4 – Mammograms cause breast cancer – mammograms are one of the best tools in early detection of breast cancer.  It cannot cause cancer to spread nor can the pressure put on the breast from the mammogram cause cancer.

Nothing you do can guarantee your life will be cancer-free.  But if you practice healthy habits, know your family history, consult your doctor about extra measures you can take, and get your annual mammogram you can at least significantly reduce your risk of this potentially fatal disease.

Paula Jamieson

Atlanta Personal Fitness (a bodyrich company)

Personal Trainer & Fitness Nutritionist


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