A Healthy Lifestyle and Breast Cancer Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons, special “pink” events, and all levels of athletic teams – little league to professional – wear pink to promote breast cancer awareness every October.

Breast Cancer Ribbon - Breast Cancer Awareness Symbol
Breast Cancer Ribbon – Symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Hopefully, the pink reminders start conversation about symptoms, signs, facts, risks, and nature of the disease. Knowledge is key, and knowledge + action is power.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month “Go Pink” activities have helped raise lots of money for breast cancer research and there are still many questions to be answered. However, research has linked certain lifestyle choices to breast cancer risk and that’s what I’m going to focus on here. I used the American Cancer Society website (cancer.org) as the primary source, but found similar information on other sites such as komen.org, cancer.gov,  and cdc.gov.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Promotions Abound

Lifestyle choices shown to lower risk:

  • Choose good food  – What’s does that mean? Generally speaking, good food is as close to its natural form as possible. Choose more vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and lean protein. And remember, just because a product is marketed as “Healthy”, doesn’t mean it is. I know. It can be complicated. Read food labels and if you need help making sense of it all, here are some tips to get started.
  • Exercise – Get on your feet and move. Walk, run, swim, skip, march in place, dance, clean a closet (that’s a workout at my house!), garden, bowl, etc. Exercise is great for your body and for your mind. Here are some ideas about how to get moving and how to stay consistent. You can do it! There are a ton of gadgets that can help. Most smart phones have a built in step tracker so you may already have one. Wearables are fitness trackers that track your activity and can even remind you to get up and move. General recommendations suggest getting 10,000 steps a day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Without attempting to get into the medical terms, it’s got something to do with fat cells putting hormone levels out of whack. Hormone levels impact cancer risk, especially for post-menopausal women. Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is not about looking cute, being skinny, media influence on what is sexy, or any of those other things. It’s about you, your health, and giving your amazing body a fighting chance.
  • Limit alcohol – Did you know that a serving of wine is only 4 – 5 ounces? That’s about half a cup. I know; it’s not much. Research shows that women who drink more than 1 serving of alcohol a day (men – 2 servings a day) have an increased risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer.

No guarantees

Of course, there are no guarantees that living a healthy lifestyle will prevent diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but a healthy lifestyle may reduce your risk and increase your long-term quality of life.

Early detection of breast cancer improves survival rates. Talk to your doctor about screening guidelines, current research, genetic and family history risks, and the like. He or she will be the best resource to give you information based on your age, health, lifestyle factors, and family history.

A healthy lifestyle of eating nutritious food and exercising helps keep you strong in body, mind, and spirit. Take baby steps if you have to. Do what you can. Think about what you will gain instead of what you’re giving up. You’re worth it.

Do it for you and for the ones you love.