Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, affecting nearly one in eight women. As of January 2020, that’s nearly 3.5 million women living with breast cancer in the US.
As Director of the Breast Center of Thomas Health Care Systems, Dr. David W. Ranson in South Charleston, West Virginia has over 20 years of expertise treating breast cancer and other breast issues. Here are his top five tips to lower your risk of breast cancer.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
If your BMI is currently in the overweight or obese range, it can increase your risk for a number of health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. When it comes to breast cancer, your risk is elevated because fat tissue increases the production of certain hormones, such as estrogen.
Estrogen, often known as the “female sex hormone,” is responsible for developing and maintaing reproductive health. Unfortunately, too much estrogen can increase your risk of breast cancer and other reproductive cancers, which is just one reason it’s important to try and maintain a healthy weight.
2. Eat well and exercise regularly
Even if you’re already at a healthy weight, it’s still important to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Studies have shown that getting around 3-5 hours of moderate exercise (like a brisk walk) a week or 2-3 hours of vigorous exercise (like running) can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
In addition, a healthy diet may reduce your risk of breast cancer as well. While there’s no magic supplement or food that can protect you fully, aim for a balanced diet that is high in vegetables and fruits while being low in saturated fat and trans fat.
3. Avoid tobacco and alcohol
While you may already know tobacco can increase your risk of lung, mouth, and throat cancers, you may be surprised to know that it can also raise your risk of breast cancer as well. Because tobacco is carcinogenic, it can increase your risk of cancers throughout your body.
Similarly, alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones that may increase your risk of breast cancer. Women who have just three drinks of alcohol a week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink.
4. Choose to breastfeed
If possible, choosing breastfeeding over formula can reduce your risk of breast cancer while also being better for your child. There are a number of ways breastfeeding can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
First, breastfeeding lowers your estrogen levels, prevents ovulation, and delays your menstrual periods, reducing your overall lifetime exposure to estrogen and your risk of breast cancer. Additionally, breastfeeding can cause some breast tissue to shed, helping to remove cells with potential DNA damage.
5. Understand your risk
If you have a family history of breast cancer, it’s important to speak with our team about your exact history and risk factors. Depending on your circumstances, we may recommend genetic testing for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Depending on your familial history, genetics, and risk factors, there are ways to protect yourself, such as with preventative mastectomies and chemoprevention.
Whether you have a family history of breast cancer or are just concerned about other risk factors, call Dr. Ranson’s office at 304-301-3910 or request an appointment to learn how to reduce your risks.