As we are all very much aware, this month was Breast Cancer Awareness month, and while I’m much more focused on ovarian cancer these days, I would be remiss not to have a few words to say about this dreaded disease.
Breast cancer rates have generally gone up in the last 30-40 years, with the exception of 2002-2003 when numbers dropped, probably due to large numbers of women foregoing hormone replacement therapies. Today, 1 in 8 women can expect to get breast cancer versus 1 in 10 in 1970. I might suggest, based upon these findings, that lifestyle choices may be a contributing factor in some breast cancers and it is to that point which I’m offering the information in the post.
Please don’t confuse this statement with my BLAMING anyone for getting breast cancer. After all, I have it also, and certainly don’t blame myself, but do wish back in the day we’d all known more about possible carcinogens and the role of diet and exercise.
So, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, an integrative doctor who’s opinion I generally trust, here’s his take on the subject:
According to the American Cancer Society, every three minutes, on average, another woman learns she has breast cancer. The good news is that there are several strategies that can help reduce risk. Try incorporating the following lifestyle changes into your daily routine:
- Get active. Regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes on most days) has been shown to be protective against breast cancer.
- Maintain your health care. Evidence-based monitoring is key. Realize that over screening can lead to unnecessary procedures and stress. The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends beginning mammograms at age 50 and continuing biennially through age 74. They recommend against self breast exams.* You may have personal reasons to consider a different screening regimen; schedule a time to speak with your doctor and determine what is best for you.
- Supplement wisely. Folic acid, vitamin D and antioxidants all may help decrease risk.
- Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. These chemicals with estrogen-like activity are found in common pesticides and industrial pollutants, and as hormone residues in meat, poultry and dairy products.**
- Avoid exposure to radiation. Limiting the number of chest X-rays you receive, especially at a young age, may decrease the risk of breast cancer.
* Personally, I would take issue with this statement, as any awareness or knowledge of one’s body is a good thing. To discourage women from self-examinations just because some statistical evidence pins outcomes on screening mechanisms instead of prevention and treatment options, is just wrong IMHO. And, as breast cancer rates have risen over the years, why on earth would you want women to be screening LESS (biennially vs. annually)!
** Many experts feel these xenoestrogens found in our food supply may play a role, although not the only one, in the earlier onset of puberty today in girls. Longer exposure to estrogens is a risk factor for ovarian and breast caners.