Every year, about 190,000 women receive a devastating diagnosis: breast cancer. But that number could go down with the right prevention awareness.
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. If the cancer cells invade nearby lymph nodes, they then have a pathway into other parts of the body. While some parts of breast cancer risk are out of your control (like genetics, race and age), there are several smart choices you can make that will actively decrease your risk.
We all know smoking is bad for your overall health, but cigarettes have a very direct link to breast cancer risk, according to a decades-long study. After studying over 100,000 women, scientists found that women who started smoking before age 15 increased their risk for breast cancer by 50 percent (in comparison to non-smoking women). They also found women who smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day for 20 or more years had a third higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
In short, lung cancer isn't the only cancer smokers have to worry about.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Researchers have also found a direct relationship between body weight and breast cancer risk. After menopause, women who are overweight have a 30-60 percent higher breast cancer risk than women who have maintained a healthy weight.
Researchers continue to study the correlation between breast cancer and weight, but one study in particular bodes some promising results: women who lost 4-11 pounds after menopause had more than a 20 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women whose weight did not change.
3. Watch the alcohol
Compared to women who don't drink at all, studies reveal women who consume three alcoholic drinks a week have a 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10 percent for each additional drink women regularly have each day.
Results were the same no matter what kind of alcohol women consumed, so it's best to limit all forms. If you want to lower your risk even more, stop drinking alcohol altogether or at least limit yourself to two drinks per week.
According to BreastCancer.org, Vitamin D may play a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may be able to stop breast cancer cells from growing, and research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Some great sources of Vitamin D include sunshine, eating salmon, catfish and oysters and drinking fortified milk.
While these steps will have some impact on your risk of getting breast cancer, they cannot eliminate the risk, and it's best to consult with your medical doctor about any health questions.
With the right types of health measures (like staying away from cigarettes and alcohol, keeping a healthy weight and getting enough vitamin D) women can decrease their risk for breast cancer - and stay pretty healthy, overall.