This month, as we raise awareness for those affected by breast cancer, it is also important to discuss what we can do to reduce our risk of cancer and manage our health. While there are plenty of breast cancer risk factors that are outside of our control- such as hormone fluctuation in our body, the age we start our periods, and others- there is still much we can do to limit our risk of developing breast and other cancers.
A healthy diet, routine exercise, and taking generally good care of your body can greatly help you manage your risk for many different types of medical conditions, cancer being one of them. For breast cancer specifically, research has identified several lifestyle changes a person can make to manage their risk.
Limit your alcohol consumption: The American Cancer Society recommends decreasing your alcohol consumption to less-than-moderate levels, as this helps reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Studies suggest that women who drink less alcohol have a lower increase in their lifetime risk of developing hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. Women who don’t drink at all have the best risk reduction, but limiting your consumption to less than 3 drinks a week can be helpful as well.
Watch your weight: Being overweight or obese, especially after menopause, can increase your risk of breast cancer. It can be quite challenging to lose weight, but incorporating healthy activities and a balanced diet into your lifestyle can make a significant difference! The relationship between increased weight and increased risk of breast cancer is quite complicated, but more and more studies suggest a strong relationship to healthy lifestyle and lower risk for many conditions. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are effective tools of reducing not just breast cancer risk, but risk for many other conditions as well.
Talk to a Genetic Counselor: One of the most powerful steps you can take is learning about your cancer risk and the tools you need to manage it. There are many screening recommendations for different types of cancer that are advised by medical professionals for the general population. If you feel that you have an increased risk of cancer due to personal or family history, a genetic counselor can help you learn about your risk as well develop personalized, appropriate screening recommendations.