Five things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Five things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Cancer has sadly touched most of us in some way or the other. We all know someone close to us who has been diagnosed by it, a family member, a friend or colleague.

According to Cancer Research UK It is expected that one in two people will develop cancer at some time. One of the reasons for this is the longer life expectancy, as cancer is more common in older people.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I want to share what we can do to reduce the risk of this.

There are so many different factors that cause cancer and many of these are out of our control, for instance, family history of cancer. However, we do have the ability to make changes, especially to our lifestyle, which in some cases is increasing the risk of cancer.

Five things to reduce risk:

1. Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer1. Cancer Research UK shares three main ways that obesity could lead to cancer. The first is after menopause oestrogen made by fat cells can make the cells multiply faster in the breasts and womb increasing the risk of cancer. Secondly, the excess fat can cause levels of insulin and other growth factors to rise, which can also signal the cells to divide more rapidly. Thirdly, inflammation which can also encourage the cells (including cancer cells) to divide.

Overweight and obesity are often measured using Body Mass Index (BMI) and being overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25 – 29.9 and obese as having a BMI above 30. According to Health Survey for England, in 2018 63 per cent of adults were either overweight or obese. That’s almost 2/3 of all adults!

Do you know what your BMI is?

If you do not know what it is, I highly recommend that you check it using the NHS website. It gives guidelines on your healthy BMI which is influenced by your ethnic background.

And after checking it, if you are overweight or obese, begin to make changes now to your diet and lifestyle to get to a healthy weight. The mistake so many make is they leave it for another day but never get started. It increases your risk, not just for cancer but for many other diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

2. Stay active

Staying active has been shown to reduce risk of breast cancer2 and you can do this by exercising or even as simply by walking. Always build up your activity gradually, taking into consideration any health conditions that you have.

3. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet

Fruits and vegetables are a good source of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. By including larger portions of these in your diet, you naturally reduce the processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. So, by eating healthily you can also reduce weight, which reduces risk of cancer.

Many fruits and vegetables contain compounds called flavonoids. There are numerous studies that have shown they can reduce inflammation, modulate immune response, support and restore the normal functions of cells. Flavonoids exert a wide range of anticancer effects.

4. Limit alcohol

Increased alcohol consumption is associated with an increase in breast cancer, so limit the amount of alcohol you drink.4 Guideline for women are to have no more than 14 units alcohol in a week and to check the number of units of alcohol you are having please download the drinkaware app.

5. Avoid smoking

Smoking has been shown to increase risk of breast cancer5 particularly among those who started at adolescent or peri-menarcheal ages, and that the relative risk of breast cancer associated with smoking was significantly greater for women with a family history of the disease.

I have shared five things, but please remember there are other things that you can do as well. It is the combination of these when living healthily, that may help to reduce the risk.

And, do remember it's important that you also do regular examinations and consult your doctor if you notice any changes in your breast.

by Sujata Din

Sujata Din is a Certified Health Coach and Certified Professional Cancer Coach. In this regular column for ‘iGlobal’, she offers some special insights, from useful wellness tips to recipes for creations that are not only delicious but also healthy.

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