Take Control Now to Prevent Breast Cancer

Katie Delaney, RD, CSOWM

Fall is upon us and there is so much to look forward to, from the wonderful color changes to the cooler weather, warm savory dishes, and upcoming holidays! Unfortunately, it is also a time of the year that we tend to put our health on hold. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so take a moment and check in with your health. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the U.S.  

Take action now to lower your chances of a breast cancer diagnosis with these 5 tips.  

1. Be consistent with annual medical checkups and screenings: Early detection is critical for prevention. Do NOT skip yearly checkups as cancer can be difficult to detect on your own. Know your body and keep up with self-breast exams. While they are not a first-line of defense, it is important to monitor and report any noticeable changes.

2. Know the Risk Factors: Narrowing down the causes of cancer is challenging. Many studies have linked certain factors for developing breast cancer including lack of physical activity, being overweight and regular use of alcohol and tobacco. Some factors we cannot control include: reproductive history, family history of breast cancer and age. In fact, age is the strongest risk factor. Studies have found 2 out of 3 individuals will develop cancer at age 55 or older with an average age at diagnosis of 63. This is why it is recommended that screening begin at age 40. While only 5% of breast cancer cases occur in women between the ages of 19 and 39, these cancers can be more aggressive making knowing your individual risk factors important.

3. Maintain a healthy weight: If your BMI falls between overweight and obese, especially after menopause, the risk of developing breast cancer increase.  A healthy weight can also help prevent a reoccurrence of breast cancer.

4. Consume a balanced, mostly plant-based diet: While no one food or diet can prevent or cause breast cancer, there are certain foods that can reduce your risk.

A diet low in fat, especially saturated fat, may help prevent a reoccurrence of breast cancer. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet will help ensure your body is getting enough nutrients which contribute to your overall health.  

Staying hydrated is important for your overall health. Aiming for 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day is important and keeping your water bottle visible is a big help. However, not all fluids are created equally. Finally, limit your intake of processed and cured foods, food additives, excess sugar, and refined carbohydrates like chips, white bread and baked goods.  

5. Build in more of these foods:

Leafy green vegetables are full of carotenoid antioxidants and have a higher level of folate which has been shown to lower cancer risk.

Citrus fruits are packed full of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and antioxidants which decrease inflammation and reduce risks associated with cancer.  

Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) are packed full of omega-3s, selenium, and antioxidants.

Berries contain antioxidants, flavonoids, and anthocyanins which protect against cellular damage and the development of cancer.

Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and kefir contain probiotics which have been linked to lowering cancer risk.

Allium vegetables (garlic, onion, and leeks) contain flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamin C which are powerful anti-cancer components.

Peaches, pears, apples contain polyphenol antioxidants which have been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth.

Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli) contain glucosinolates which are converted by the body to isothiocyanates which have anticancer affects.

Beans are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals which studies are showing decrease the risks associated with cancer when incorporated daily into the diet.

6. Incorporate herbs and spices with cooking and baking: Herbs like parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, turmeric, curry, ginger and others lower risks related to cancer.

7. Get up and move!: Physical activity can help with regulating weight, decreasing inflammation, and balancing hormones. Aim for a goal of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity a week. Examples include walking, biking, cleaning the house, or structured physical activity like a class. If vigorous movement like running, hiking, or swimming laps is more your thing, 75 to 150 minutes is the goal.

8. Limit alcohol consumption: Women who consume 1 drink per day have a 7% higher chance of developing breast cancer when compared to women who do not drink. For individuals drinking 2-3 drinks per day the risk increases to 20%. Alcohol is linked to other forms of cancer as well.

9. Know the signs and symptoms: The most common symptom is a new lump or mass in the breast. But there are other early detectors: breast or nipple pain, swelling of part or all of the breast, nipple retraction, changes to the skin (redness, dry skin, flakiness), discharge from nipple other than breast milk, swollen lymph nodes under arm or collar bone.

Changing the way you eat can be difficult and making too many changes at once is often overwhelming. Remember to take small steps when making big lifestyle changes. Start with the area you feel can be changed most realistically when applying these suggestions to your life. With diet, start with one meal at a time, for movement, start with 10-15 minutes a day and increase time, frequency, and intensity when you are able.

If you are looking for further support, you don’t have to do it alone. Take Control has a team of registered dietitians and exercise specialists ready to help you make the lifestyle changes you desire. Our customized health coaching program will tailor to your specific needs to help you meet your goals. Schedule a free informational call with us today.