You may have annual mammograms and do monthly self-exams, but are you taking the daily steps that really make a difference?
It’s easy to think about breast health mostly in terms of cancer treatments and mammograms, both very important things. But research has shown that your daily habits can make a difference in breast health for many women.
You might be doing some of these things already. Resolve today to add one of these good habits to your life… and come back next month to add another. If you’re not sure if these suggestions are right for your specific needs, talk with your health provider about what’s best for you.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Women with more fruits and veggies in their daily meals, especially carotene-rich produce, reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 19%, according to Susan Levin. Carotene powerhouses like carrots, melons, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, spinach, and sweet red peppers can be a tasty part of each day.
- Eat less saturated fat. Fewer bacon cheese burgers may be a tough choice, but it is associated with better outcomes even for women who have breast cancer.
- Move more! Dance, sports, or any active hobbies that keep you moving can be great for your health, including your breast health. If your busy schedule means that you can’t remember the last time you went dancing or you’re only really active on weekends, think about a pedometer or a wearable step counter. Work your way up to 10,000 steps a day.
- Watch your alcohol intake. A glass of wine with dinner may make no difference, but tossing back a few drinks a day can actually increase your risk of breast cancer. Studies by the World Cancer Research Fund, the National Cancer Center, and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that limiting alcohol to one drink a day reduced the risk of breast cancer by as much as one third.
- Watch your weight, too. Turns out, women who have a normal body mass index — about 18 to 25 — are less likely to have breast health issues, including breast cancer. Daily habits associated with a healthy weight, like eating less processed food, can also lead to better breast health.
- Don’t smoke today. Smoking is associated with breast cancer as well as other cancers. Nonsmokers also have perkier breasts, studies show — not a central issue for breast health, but you might find it motivating.
You might have noticed that the everyday habits that support breast health also lead to better general health, so you just can’t lose!
Knowing your breast cancer risk and what types of screenings are recommended is important. Although most of us know 40 is the recommended age to start having yearly mammograms, depending on your family history or personal history, a different screening schedule may be recommended for you. 40% of women have dense breast tissue, and mammography may miss cancers in women with dense breast tissue. Women with dense breast tissue may want to consider having yearly automated breast ultrasound with their mammogram. Ask your doctor or breast radiologist for more information.
Much of the data for this post came from the Breast Cancer Research page at Cancer Research UK, which has an extensive list of references from the U.S. and Europe.