Thursday, November 5, 2015

Breast cancer prevention strategies

When you hear health messages about cancer or any disease do you find yourself filtering it out?  If you do, this next sentence might cause you to stop reading, but please continue because there's a point I'm hoping to make. One out of eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime (American Cancer Society). Are you still reading? That's good, because the purpose of sharing that statistic was to illustrate that even though we frequently hear these kinds of health messages, we don't always feel connected to them.

Perhaps you might be thinking as I did when hearing those numbers, wow, that sounds like a lot, but I'm not going to be the one.  Unfortunately, this kind of thinking often translates into inaction. Statistical health data, although sometimes shocking and troubling, may not be meaningful enough to inspire change for some of us.

If you find that you aren't motivated by statistics, you're not alone. Evidence suggests that health messages which highlight health consequences and the numbers of people who get disease aren't as effective as was once thought.

What can be more successful in motivating change in health behaviors are messages that focus on causes and solutions for disease (McKenzie).

Obviously there is no clear solution to breast cancer at this point in time. However, there is a great deal of data available that is linking lifestyle factors with increased risk.

There may be no sure way to prevent breast cancer yet. However, this doesn't mean we're powerless. Our best prevention strategy is to take steps to reduce our risk factors as much as possible. So, let's take a closer look at the modifiable risk factors.  In other words, the things we can do to lower the probability of  becoming one out of eight women who will get breast cancer.

A few Prevention Strategies
  • Excercise- Enough said.
  • Avoid weight gain and obesity - Exercise and healthy nutrition are the keys. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a gain in body mass index (BMI) may substantially increase a women's risk for breast cancer, especially after menopause.The NCI states, " In a recent analysis, women who reported a gain in BMI of five points  or more between age 20 and postmenopausal age (ages 55-74) had nearly twice the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer compared to women who maintained their BMI during the same time period." You can read more about BMI in this post here.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables - Preferably organic.  Organically grown produce lowers exposure to pesticides which can effect hormone levels, particularly estrogen dominance.
  • Have your vitamin D levels checked -  A low level of Vitamin D is linked to increased risk for breast cancer. 
  • Reduce chronic inflammation - I've blogged about this very important element of cancer prevention here, but simply put, if our immune system is preoccupied and overwhelmed responding to environmental and food stressors, it's possible that it can miss the angiogenesis of a sneaky cancer cell. 
Here's some additional information from Dr. Fuhrman's informative website which explains how to support our wellness with healthy nutrition. The foods we eat can either support or oppose our bodies. Experts now agree that there are even so-called power foods that do an especially good job of restoring our bodies. 

So, rather than tuning out messages about disease, consider the strategies that you can incorporate into your lifestyle that will help prevent illness from starting in the first place - because "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
McKenzie, J. An Introduction to Community Health, 5th ed.

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