Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump.
Did you know that fewer than 15% of all women who develop breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it?
This means that 85% of all breast cancer cases are caused by factors other than heredity, such as environmental toxins, eating cancer-causing foods, and stress.
That being said, we all know that our bodies change as we get older. What might work for a 30 year old might not be a 60-year-old’s cup of tea. In addition to knowing breast cancer signs, here are the top three breast cancer prevention tips you can follow to reduce your risk of breast cancer during each of your milestone decades.
Breast Cancer Prevention Tips for Your 30s
Did you know that the number of under-40-year-olds diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast cancer has been steadily increasing for the last four decades… and that this rise is largely due to preventable factors? In fact, according to statistics provided by the University of Columbia, 95% of all cancers are due to bad diet and the accumulation of toxins.
Breast Cancer Prevention Tips for Your 40s & 50s
The years between 40 and 59 find most women going through major changes in their physical body as well as mentally and emotionally.
These changes can be looked at as inconvenient, frustrating, and sometimes downright scary. But according to Christine Northrop, MD, this period of a woman’s life also represents “the biggest opportunity for personal growth and empowerment since adolescence.”
Breast Cancer Prevention Tips for Your 60s & Beyond
The majority of breast cancers occur in women over 65.
There is a lot of good news about breast cancer these days. Treatments keep getting better, and we know more than ever about ways to prevent the disease. These eight simple steps can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Not every one applies to every woman, but together they can have a big impact.
1. Keep Weight in Check
It’s easy to tune out because it gets said so often, but maintaining a healthy weight is an important goal for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.
2. Be Physically Active
Exercise is as close to a silver bullet for good health as there is, and women who are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise is also one of the best ways to help keep weight in check.
3. Eat Your Fruits & Vegetables – and Avoid Too Much Alcohol
A healthy diet can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and keep alcohol at moderate levels or lower (a drink a day or under). While moderate drinking can be good for the heart in older adults, even low levels of intake can increase the risk of breast cancer. If you don’t drink, don’t feel you need to start. If you drink moderately, there’s likely no reason to stop. But, if you drink more, you should cut down or quit.
4. Don’t Smoke
Smokers and non-smokers alike know how unhealthy smoking is. On top of lowering quality of life and increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and at least 15 cancers – including breast cancer – it also causes smelly breath, bad teeth, and wrinkles. Now that’s motivation to stay smoke-free or work to get smoke-free.
5. Breastfeed, If Possible
Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child.
6. Avoid Birth Control Pills, Particularly After Age 35 or If You Smoke
Birth control pills have both risks and benefits. The younger a woman is, the lower the risks are. While women are taking birth control pills, they have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This risk goes away quickly, though, after stopping the pill. The risk of stroke and heart attack is also increased while on the pill – particularly if a woman smokes. However, long-term use can also have important benefits, like lowering the risk of ovarian cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer – not to mention unwanted pregnancy – so there’s also a lot in its favor. If you’re very concerned about breast cancer, avoiding birth control pills is one option to lower risk.
7. Avoid Post-Menopausal Hormones
Post-menopausal hormones shouldn’t be taken long term to prevent chronic diseases, like osteoporosis and heart disease. Studies show they have a mixed effect on health, increasing the risk of some diseases and lowering the risk of others, and both estrogenonly hormones and estrogen-plus-progestin hormones increase the risk of breast cancer. If women do take post-menopausal hormones, it should be for the shortest time possible. The best person to talk to about the risks and benefits of post-menopausal hormones is your doctor.
8. Tamoxifen and Raloxifene for Women at High Risk
Although not commonly thought of as a “healthy
behavior,” taking the prescription drugs tamoxifen
and raloxifene can significantly lower the risk of
breast cancer in woman at high risk of the disease.
Approved by the FDA for breast cancer prevention,
these powerful drugs can have side effects, so
they aren’t right for everyone. If you think you’re
at high risk, talk to your doctor to see if tamoxifen or raloxifene may be right for you.
Other Important Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, there are also a number of important breast cancer risk factors that women have no control over. Knowing which ones apply to you can help you understand your risk and do what you can to lower it. If you feel you’re at high risk, talk to a doctor or other health professional. These can increase a woman’s breast cancer risk:
- Older age, especially 60 years or over
- Family history of breast cancer
- First menstrual period (menarche) before age 12
- Menopause at age 55 or over
- First childbirth after age 35
- No children
- Tall height (5’8” or taller)
- Dense breasts
- History of benign breast disease (like atypical hyperplasia)Photo Credit: Getty