Many people feel a sense of uneasiness and worry when they hear the word ‘cancer’ as it may be associated with painful treatment and death. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, shedding light on a very common cancer among women, second to skin cancer for most commonly diagnosed, and second to lung cancer for most deaths in the U.S. Because of the prevalence of this condition, it is necessary that we are educated on how we might be able to lower our risk of breast cancer development, whether or not we are personally at a higher risk of diagnosis, as well as signs that breast cancer may be developing.
Although breast cancer is most commonly found in women, about 1 in 1000 men are at risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society (ACS) projected around 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer to be diagnosed in women in 2021, with about 43,600 women dying. There are risk factors, which may elevate one’s risk of breast cancer, which include family history, increased age, high breast tissue density, postmenopausal hormone therapies, and lifestyle practices such as physical inactivity or being overweight. By being informed about potential risk factors, we can pay closer attention to abnormalities and symptoms that may occur.
We can discover if we are at high risk of breast cancer development through talking with our relatives about our family health history. If you have a family history of breast cancer development it’s important to be able to identify signs or symptoms that there may be cancer growing. Signs include lumps or thickening of tissue that feels different than other tissue around it, change in breast size or shape, skin changes such as dimpling, peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the areola, inverted nipple, or redness around the area. It is a good idea to stay up to date on yearly mammograms and do monthly self-examinations to become familiar with your own breast tissue and identify any changes or lumps.
Aside from genetics and family history, the American Cancer Society recommends getting to and staying at a healthy weight as one way to lessen the chances of developing breast cancer. This has been linked with higher risk for those post-menopause. Another recommendation is to stay physically active. Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous activity is linked to lowered cancer risk. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. This equates to about 1 hour of moderate movement three to four times each week. Lastly, it is recommended that people at higher risk for breast cancer limit or avoid alcohol. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day and men should consume no more than two per day. A drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Always remember that we are able to enjoy products like alcohol, but should do so in moderation.
Although we all have unique health histories and lifestyles, we are all at risk for conditions such as breast cancer. It is important to understand one’s own personal risk as well as the lifestyle changes that can be made to lower risks, and recognize signs that breast cancer may be developing. Through being proactive with one’s health status, there may be an increased chance of living a long life with fewer health issues.
Disclaimer: Our nutritional information is here to help you meet your health goals! But they aren’t meant to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Remember to always ask your physician or other qualified health care provider if you have questions or concerns regarding your health.