The risk of developing breast cancer increases with factors beyond your control. These are:
- advanced age;
- family history of ovarian cancer (before the age of 50) and breast cancer (first-degree-relatives);
- personal history of genetic mutations (BRCA1/BRCA2);
- previous precancerous breast lesions;
- previous breast cancer;
- first menstrual period at an early age;
- first term pregnancy after the age of 30;
- late menopause;
- no previous pregnancies.
However, lifestyles and behaviours within our control are, in fact, linked to increased breast cancer risk. Here are the top 5 enemies of your breasts:
Overweight women have an excess of fat cells. These produce a hormone – estrogen – that stimulates the development of breast cancers which are sensitive to these hormones. This effect is particularly important in post-menopausal women. Reducing the amount of fat cells in your body, adding to the well-known health advantages of a leaner body, also decreases the risk of this type of cancer.
2. Sedentary lifestyle
Regular exercise has been linked to a decrease in breast cancer risk. Adding to the advantages of fat cell reduction, another reason for exercising appears to be to the way it influences the metabolism of estrogens. Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle also reduces cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as the chances of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
3. Alcohol consumption
Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancers sensitive to estrogen as a consequence of its role in increasing the levels of this hormone. Alcohol harms the cells’ DNA and this may be another reason of its aggressiveness.
4. Red meat
A 20-year study involving 89,000 women suggests that red meat may raise breast cancer. This study also suggests that the replacement of a daily serving of red meat with a combination of fish, vegetables, nuts, and poultry reduces the risk of breast cancer by 14%. Small adjustments to a diet may bring many benefits and open up a whole world of flavours yet to discover.
5. Hormonal replacement therapy
This therapy consists of a combination of estrogen and progestin (or just estrogen) that is used to treat symptoms related to menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes. Women that take the estrogen and progestin combination have a higher risk of developing a breast cancer. If this treatment can’t be avoided, the lowest dose during the shortest possible period is the best strategy. Staying cool is a good alternative plan by reducing everything that’s hot, such as spicy foods, hot cloths, hot rooms… Favouring stress reducing activities, such as exercise, and yoga is effective as well.