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Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Debra Pratt, from the Cleveland Clinic Breast Health Center, writes that early detection and lifestyle changes can help save lives.
BY Debra Pratt
PUBLISHED October 20, 2015
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States (other than skin cancer). There are currently 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States according to the American Cancer Society; an indication that early detection and lifestyle changes help save lives.

I encourage women to be proactive about screening for breast cancer and all breast cancer symptoms.

Follow these guidelines

Regular screening mammograms and screening for breast lumps and other breast cancer symptoms remains the best means of detecting the disease early, when it is most easily treated with minimally invasive techniques. I recommend following the Cleveland Clinic screening guidelines listed below:
  • Annual screening mammography for healthy women starting at the age of 40.
  • Annual breast examination by a physician should be done prior to the mammogram to ensure a diagnostic mammogram is not indicated.
  • Self-breast exams so women are familiar with their breasts and can report any changes to their physicians.
Lifestyle choices can also affect the chances of developing cancer. Weight, exercise and moderate alcohol intake may help reduce the risk for cancer of the breast.

Exercise and maintain a healthy weight

Carrying too much weight (obesity) is a risk factor for breast cancer in the post menopausal woman. An American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) report demonstrated there is a strong link between excess body fat and increased cancer risk. Studies continue to show that exercise has a greater impact than a change in diet. Those who do regular aerobic exercise have one-third fewer cases of breast, colon, and lining of the uterus cancers.

The SHAPE 2 trial results published in September 2015 compared weight loss from diet alone to weight loss with exercise. The weight loss with exercise led a healthier body composition including a larger decrease in total body fat, improvement in lean body mass (muscle) and a reduction in hormones related to fat that can increase the risk of breast cancer. I advise women to get to an ideal weight before the onset of menopause, as it is more difficult to lose weight during menopause.

Eat a healthy diet

High-fat diets tend to be higher in calories and might increase the risk of overweight or obesity – which in turn, increases cancer risk. Practice portion control, limit your fat and limit foods from animal sources. Be sure to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and other foods from plant sources such as whole beans and grains. Alcohol consumption needs to be low to moderate with less than one glass a day.

Start making these lifestyle changes today; the rewards will last a lifetime.
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