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How do I Lower my Breast Cancer Risk?

There may be a number of ways to lower breast cancer risk, but there are also some situations in which risk is simply heightened through genetic or inheritance factors. It’s also true that women as a population group are more at risk due to their gender, and this is not something that can be avoided. Aging is another unavoidable risk.

Even when people fall into higher risk groups, some changes in behavior or avoidance of certain things might reduce breast cancer risk. For instance, there’s some fairly good evidence that exercising about three hours a week may reduce chances of getting this cancer by approximately 20%. This may be tied to the relationship between obesity and cancer. Women who are overweight as adults have a heightened risk because their bodies tend to produce more estrogen. Maintaining an average weight might help in this respect.

The decision to have or not have children is usually not based on cancer avoidance. However, women who choose not to have children or who have them when their first child when they are over the age of the 30, are more at risk for breast cancer. Another related factor is whether or not women choose to breastfeed their infants. Lengthier breastfeeding, at least 1.5 years may lower breast cancer risk.

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There have certainly been significant studies on whether using certain hormonal drugs creates greater possibility of developing cancer. Birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives slightly increase risk especially if use is recent. Yet this risk declines each year after use discontinues. Hormonal replacement therapy, especially after menopause, does increase possibility of developing cancer, but this too may decline when use is discontinued. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that supplementation with estrogen alone greatly increases breast cancer risk unless it is used for more than five years.

Plenty of studies exist on certain foods that may have breast cancer fighting properties. In 2009, for instance, The International Journal of Cancer published the results of an extensive analysis of the diets of Chinese women. Those who consumed mushrooms regularly and who drank green tea seemed to have lower incidence of cancers of the breast. Other “wonder foods” that may be linked to a lower breast cancer risk include cruciferous vegetables, especially cabbage and broccoli. In general, eating a diet high in vegetables/fruit and dietary fiber appears to slightly decrease breast cancer incidence.

It is important to understand that lowering risk doesn’t guarantee avoiding cancer. It is highly recommended that women learn how to do breast self-exams, and practice these monthly. As soon as women are in their 40s, they also need to start having mammograms to check for evidence of cancer or growths that might indicate cancer. While committing to a healthy lifestyle is a great idea, it’s still vital to be sure that cancer is caught early, since outcome improves with early treatment.

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