Breast cancer statistics can be alarming, but you don’t need to feel helpless.
You can’t control your genes or family history. But there are plenty of ways to effectively reduce your risk of the disease.
Keep reading to learn important facts about breast cancer, why it’s on the rise, and 8 ways you can reduce your risk and help prevent breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer refers to any type of cancer that originates in breast tissues.
Women are over 100 times more likely than men to develop risk cancer.
And other risk factors include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Drinking alcohol
- Exposure to radiation
- Advanced age
- Prior history of breast cancer
- Family history of breast cancer
- BRCA genetic mutations
Common signs of breast cancer are:
- Breast lumps
- Changes in the shape of a breast
- Skin dimpling
- Discharge from the nipple
- A newly inverted nipple
- Changes in skin color or texture
Advanced breast cancer that spreads can cause bone pain, swelling of lymph nodes, skin color changes, shortness of breath, and other generalized symptoms.
If your doctor suspects you have breast cancer, they will confirm the diagnosis with a biopsy of the affected area.
Should the biopsy come back positive for breast cancer, the doctor will order more tests to determine if the cancer has spread, and to determine the most effective treatment options.
Types of Breast Cancer
The most common type of breast cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma.
This type of breast cancer comprises over 80% of cases. It begins in the milk ducts, then spreads to other parts of the breast.
Other types of breast cancer include ductal carcinoma in situ (which hasn’t yet spread from the milk ducts), triple-negative breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, Paget disease of the breast, Phyllodes tumors, and angiosarcoma.
Breast Cancer Treatment and Prognosis
Breast cancer treatment may include:
- Full breast removal
- Estrogen-blocking drugs like tamoxifen or raloxifene.
While prognosis for the disease varies, survival rates in the developed world are fairly high. In the US and UK, five-year survival rates are currently between 80-90% for breast cancer patients.
Why is Breast Cancer On the Rise?
Up to 1 in 8 women alive today may receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes.
Put differently, over 230,000 women receive a breast cancer diagnosis each year, and up to 40,000 of them will die of breast cancer.
The incidence of breast cancer has increased by as much as 80% since the 1970s.
So what explains the rising rates of breast cancer?
Scientists think that modern lifestyles are the main reason.
In other words, over time, people have become more sedentary, more overweight, are more likely to drink too much alcohol, and are less likely to eat a healthy diet.
Along with unhealthy habits and environments, the aging population is another reason why breast cancer is on the rise.
Because only 7% of women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis are under the age of 40, as the population grows older, more women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
Fortunately, you don’t have to “go with the flow” when it comes to rising rates of breast cancer. Just as modern lifestyles result in increased risk, a healthier lifestyle can reduce your risk.
In the next section, you’ll learn everything you need to know for preventing breast cancer.
8 Tips for Preventing Breast Cancer
#1: Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency
Our bodies make vitamin D3 naturally from the sun. This essential vitamin and prohormone plays key roles in bone health, immune function, and hormone production.
However, in the US, up to 41% of people are deficient or borderline deficient. And African-Americans have a staggering rate of 82% because of their darker skin.
Most people spend their days indoors, and when they’re outside they wear clothing, sunblock, and sunglasses. These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency.
Not only that, unless you live near the equator or in the tropics, the sunlight in winter lacks the UVB your body needs to make vitamin D3. So even if you do go outside, winter sun won’t help prevent D3 deficiency.
Unless you spend a lot of time outdoors and live in an area with high UVB year-round, there’s a good chance you have a vitamin D deficiency.
And studies show that D3 deficiency can increase women’s rate of breast cancer by a full 230%.
The Vitamin D Council recommends target blood levels of 40-80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), and defines deficiency as under 40ng/ml.
You can discover whether you are deficient by asking your doctor for a 25-hydroxy-D3 blood test.
Should you find you’re deficient, your doctor will recommend you take D3 supplements,
But even if you don’t get the test, it’s safe to take 5,000-10,000 iu of vitamin D3 in supplement form each day.
#2: Sleep in a Dark Room at Night
Getting enough sunlight and D3 is one way to reduce your risk of breast cancer, but it turns out darkness is also essential for preventing breast cancer.
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that helps you sleep at night, and also plays a role in killing cancer cells.
Your body makes melatonin naturally, but light pollution can prevent your body from producing and releasing melatonin.
And melatonin suppression may result in elevated breast cancer risk. For example, among women who work night shifts, researchers have found a 20% increase in breast cancer risk.
Therefore, it’s clear that working day shift is the best choice to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
But even if you don’t work nights, you can still lower your risk by:
- Using dim yellow, red, or amber lights around your home at night
- Avoiding computer, smartphone, tablet, and television screens for several hours before bed
- Making your bedroom as dark as possible, using blackout curtains if necessary
As a result, you’ll not only sleep better and wake up refreshed, you’ll also support your body’s natural ability to prevent breast cancer.
#3: Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer, but losing weight can lower your risk.
Obesity may increase breast cancer risk by:
- Causing hormonal imbalances
- Creating an inflammatory, pro-cancer environment
- Providing cancer cells with more energy to grow
While some data also shows that being overweight could reduce your premenopausal risk, the opposite is true of post-menopausal breast cancers. And evidence shows overweight or obese women have worse prognoses than leaner women.
Overall, if you are overweight or obese, losing weight is a safe bet for preventing breast cancer and increasing your odds of a good prognosis.
#4: Eat a Healthy Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help you lose weight.
Not only that, reducing your inflammation levels is essential for preventing breast cancer–even if you aren’t overweight. Lower inflammation levels can also increase your chances of surviving breast cancer.
The anti-inflammatory diet is high in whole food proteins, healthy fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), fruits, vegetables, and whole food sources of fiber.
But it’s also equally important to know what to avoid to reduce your inflammation levels. Here are the pro-inflammatory foods you should avoid:
- Processed foods
- Sugars, especially fructose
- Trans fats
- Vegetable oils and other processed refined oils
According to research, eating the right foods and avoiding unhealthy inflammatory foods may reduce your risk of breast cancer by up to two thirds.
#5: Exercise Regularly
Similar to eating an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise can reduce your risk of breast cancer in more than one way.
Along with the weight loss benefits of exercise, it can also reduce your inflammation levels.
One study found that being physically active can reduce breast cancer risk by up to 50%, as well as increase survival rates in patients who have already been diagnosed.
There’s not much evidence yet on what type of exercise is most effective for preventing breast cancer.
However, it’s clear that exercising regularly is key.
Whether you prefer weight training, cardio, yoga, interval training, or just going for a walk, exercise is a fantastic, free way to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
#6: Perform Regular Self-Exams
While most women who get breast cancer are over 40, all women should perform regular self-exams of their breasts.
Early detection from self-exams can make the difference between an easy-to-treat case of breast cancer and advanced breast cancer.
As a result, it’s one of the most important ways to reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer.
Here’s how to do it:
- Lie on your back somewhere private, to allow your breast tissue to spread evenly and flat.
- Position a pillow under your right shoulder, then rest your right arm behind your head.
- Use your left hand to apply light, then medium, then firm pressure. Move your fingers around your breast in small, circular motions. Make sure you examine the entire breast and armpit area thoroughly.
- Squeeze your nipple, then look for discharge or lumps.
- Repeat the self-exam on the other side.
- Look in the mirror for swelling, changes in your skin, or other unusual signs.
Doctors recommend a monthly self-exam. To help remember, you can use a calendar reminder or post-it note.
#7: Drink Less Alcohol
Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer.
But how much alcohol is too much?
Unfortunately, any daily alcohol consumption appears to raise your risk.
Drinking one drink per day can raise your risk by 4%, while three or more drinks every day can cause a staggering increase of 40-50%.
Some researchers estimate each daily drink could raise your risk by 7-10%.
Surprisingly, women’s breasts are more sensitive to carcinogenic effects from alcohol. These effects include raising estrogen levels, metabolic changes that support cancer growth, and damage to epithelial cells.
Unless you’re a tee-totaler, you probably don’t want to cut alcohol out entirely.
But if you drink three or more drinks per day, drinking less is an excellent way to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
And if you have other risk factors for breast cancer, you may want to consider avoiding daily drinking altogether.
#8: Don’t Smoke
Using tobacco products can increase your risk of breast cancer by up to 24%, not to mention other health problems.
While scientists aren’t entirely sure how smoking increases breast cancer risk, they think it may be due to epigenetic changes and DNA damage.
Fortunately, there are more options for quitting now than ever before.
Whether you use a patch, gum, hypnotherapy, a support group, or go cold turkey, it’s vital to quit smoking if you want to prevent breast cancer.
Breast cancer rates may be rising, but you can take significant steps for preventing breast cancer.
By following the steps laid out in this article, you can reduce your risk of breast cancer as well as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, as well as other forms of cancer.
Want personalized advice or support to help you make the necessary changes? Call the Complete Care network today to set up an appointment.