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10 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

Today I celebrate my health by lowering my breast cancer risk factors. Today I honor my breast health empowered. Today I do a breast self-exam.
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According to the American Cancer Society, "Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer." About 1 out of every 7 women will get breast cancer over a 90-year life span. All women are at risk for breast cancer.

This year about 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 40,000 moms, daughters, sisters, granddaughters and best friends that will die from breast cancer this year.

The American Cancer Society states, "Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment."

The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman's death is about 1 in 35 (about 3 percent). At this time there are over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

A woman's risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 20-30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer.

About 70-80 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

There are ways to reduce your risk.

What can you do to lower your risk of getting breast cancer?

1. Maintain an ideal weight: The chance of developing breast cancer after menopause is higher in women who are overweight or obese.

2. Exercise: The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45-60 minutes of physical exercise 5 or more days a week.

3. Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol can limit your liver's ability to control blood levels of the hormone estrogen, which in turn can increase risk. The Harvard Nurses' Health study, along with several others, has shown that consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day can increase breast cancer risk by as much as 20-25 percent.

4. Exposure to estrogen: The female hormone estrogen stimulates breast cell growth, so exposure to estrogen over long periods of time, without breaks, can increase the risk of breast cancer.

5. Oral contraceptive use: Recent use may slightly increase a woman's risk for breast cancer.

6. Enjoy fruits and vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, berries and cherries are all breast cancer fighters.

7. Reduce high glycemic carbohydrates: Eat low to medium glycemic foods and avoid white rice, white potatoes and sugar products, because these foods may trigger hormonal changes that promote cellular growth in breast tissue. Eat whole grains and legumes.

8. Stop smoking: Smoking is associated with an increase in breast cancer risk and in the risk of other cancers.

9. Reduce stress and anxiety: There is no clear proof that stress and anxiety can increase breast cancer risk, but some research suggests that practicing yoga, prayer and meditation to manage stress can strengthen the immune system.

10. Perform monthly breast self-exams, get routine screenings and work closely with your health care provider.

We cannot control our gender, age, race or family history of breast cancer, but early detection can save lives. Performing a monthly breast self-exam is something you can control.

Nearly 70 percent of all breast cancers are found through self-exams, and with early detection the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent.

Dr. Wendy Klein, leading women's health expert and co-author of "The Menopause Makeover" says:

Discuss your breast self-exam technique with your healthcare provider, and report any asymmetrical changes in your breast right away. Regular breast self-exams in conjunction with other screening methods, working closely with your doctor, are simple common sense for good breast health.

Today I celebrate my health by lowering my breast cancer risk factors. Today I honor my breast health empowered. Today I do a breast self-exam.

What is your risk of getting breast cancer?

Click here for the National Cancer Institutes Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool.

References National Breast Cancer Foundation® Official Site - Information, Awareness & Donations, "Self Examination - National Breast Cancer Foundation." 10 September 2010.

Jonekos, S. and W. Klein. The Menopause Makeover. Ontario, Canada: Harlequin Enterprises; 2009.

Smith RA, Cokkinides V, Brawley OW. Cancer screening in the United States, 2008: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and cancer screening issues. CA Cancer J Clin. 2008;58:161-179. National Cancer Institute - Comprehensive Cancer Information, " Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool." 02 October 2010 National Breast Cancer Foundation® Official Site - Information, Awareness & Donations, "Self Examination - National Breast Cancer Foundation." 02 October 2010 National Cancer Institute - Comprehensive Cancer Information, "Breast Cancer Prevention - National Cancer Institute." 12 March 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "CDC- Screening for Breast Cancer." 31 August 2010. Breast Cancer Treatment Information and Pictures, "Lower Your Risk for Breast Cancer." 07 August 2008. American Cancer Society:: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms, "Breast awareness and self exam." 02 October 2010

MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health, "Breast self exam:
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." 02 October 2010