The leading risk factor for breast cancer? Simply being a woman. While men can get it, it’s 100 times more common in women. In fact, 85% of those diagnosed with breast cancer had no family history.
But you still have more control over cancer – and your health – thank you think. Our lifestyle choices can turn off genetic switches and slash our risk. Here area some things you can do.
Know your breasts
Monthly self exams are one way. You can also ask for a mammogram and ask your radiologist for your breast density score. Some women have more tissue than fat in breasts. Tissue – like tumors – show up white in tests, so it’s more difficult to spot a problem. If you do have dense breasts, you can ask your doctor about adding MRIs and ultrasounds to your screenings, tripling your odds of early detection.
Get your butt off the couch
Like you need another reason to get moving, aside from better cardiac health and beachworthy abs? The more fat you have in your body, the more estrogen you have – and estrogen is linked to cell overgrowth. The American Cancer Society found that women who’d gained 21 to 30 pounds since they 18 increased their risk by 40%, and that excess body weight can contribute to as much as 1 out 5 cases of cancer-related deaths. Exercise lowers fat and increases your ratio of “good” estrogens vs. “bad estrogens” which can mess with your body.
The sweet spot: 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise. That’s just half an hour of brisk walking — you can do it!
Love your greens (and vinaigrette)
The magic ingredient is carotenoids – cancer-fighting supernutrients that lower your brest cancer risk by as much as 19%. They’re found in leafy greans, carrots, red peppers, tomatoes. You might want to drizzle a little olive into that. New study of 4,000 women found that those who used it in preparing food lowered their risk by 68%, thanks to a cancer-fighting ingredient called oleocanthal.
Slow down on those cocktails
Any more than 1 drink a day increases your risk for cancer. And no, drinking 7 margaritas on Friday does not keep you in the “safe zone.”
Ask mom and dad about your family medical history
Yes, even your dad. Men can carry the gene that’s linked to cancer. If it runs in your family, again – don’t panic. Just include it in your consultations with your doctor, who can increase your screenings or take it into consideration when he’s treating you for other conditions.