What Impacts Your Chance of Getting Breast Cancer?

Michele Warg
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Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. There are several factors to consider, including weight, waist size, exercise, diet, alcohol consumption, genetics, family history, race and environmental toxins.

Breast cancer kills nearly 40,000 people every year, but knowing the risk factors is the first step toward building a defense. One of the main factors in breast cancer development is excess weight. Fat cells produce estrogen; therefore, the more excess fat you have, the more estrogen your body produces. Excess estrogen is associated with tumor growth.

It's not only about your overall weight — how your weight is distributed also makes a difference. Women who carry more weight around their midsection are at a higher risk for breast cancer, according to recent studies. In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal determined that a woman's risk for postmenopausal breast cancer increases exponentially if her skirt size had increased since her twenties.

As with all types of cancer, diet plays a crucial role. Some research suggests that eliminating red meat and sticking with a more plant-based diet can halt the spread of cancer. The best types of vegetables to consume are cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, which help balance the body's estrogen levels and reduce inflammation. Red and orange varieties, such as tomatoes and carrots, are loaded with antioxidants called carotenoids, which are linked to an overall lower breast cancer risk. In addition to loading up on vegetables and cutting out red meat, it is also recommended to limit sugar and high-fat dairy intake.

In addition to watching what you eat, it's important to monitor what you drink. Many studies show a clear association between increased alcohol consumption and higher breast cancer risk. Heavy drinking during the years after your first period and before your first pregnancy poses an especially high risk. Experts agree the best course of action is to either abstain or exercise moderation when drinking.

Exercising regularly has several positive effects. It lowers blood glucose and insulin levels, boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation and helps the body break down excess estrogen. Experts recommend at least an hour a day, four or five times a week.

Not all risk factors for breast cancer are within your control. Your genes, family history and race all play a part in determining your risk. Women who carry mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have an increased risk, but even without this mutation, you are more susceptible if a first-degree relative such as your mother, sister or daughter develops breast cancer. Black women are up to 40 percent more likely to succumb to breast cancer than white women, according to studies.Environmental toxins also play a crucial role in the development of breast cancer. Consistent or prolonged exposure to toxins called endocrine disruptors are associated with increased risk. These toxins are in everyday products like plastic containers and cans, and certain cosmetics.

Statistics show that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. This doesn't have to be you. Keep these factors in mind when assessing your own likelihood of developing breast cancer. Knowing the factors and taking proactive steps to minimize your risk are great ways to stay healthy.


Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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