As the recent breast cancer screening recommendations released by the American Cancer Society continue to raise concerns across the medical community and among patients, Main Line Health reminds women that they have the ability to take charge of their breast health by taking proactive steps toward reducing their risk factors. From following a healthy diet to using safe beauty products and researching genetic testing opportunities, there are factors that women can control.
“Most breast cancers are related to how you lead your life, and it’s important to get to and stick to a healthy weight and exercise regularly,” says Marisa Weiss, MD, breast oncologist at Lankenau Medical Center and president and founder of breastcancer.org. “What you’re eating, what you’re drinking, what you’re breathing in, medicines you’re taking, personal products you’re using—these can all affect your breast health. The good news is that many of these factors can be modified to immediately lower your risk.”
Here are some of the most common things you can do—starting today—to decrease your cancer risk:
- Eat healthy and exercise often – A healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, in addition to a regular fitness routine—working out three-to four hours a week (five-to seven are even better)—are important components of a healthy lifestyle, and that includes cancer prevention.
- Stop smoking – While smoking is most often considered a risk factor for lung cancer, the truth is that smoking can be a risk factor for almost every type of cancer. If you are currently a smoker, stop. The benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately, and the sooner you quit, the lower your cancer risk.
- Limit alcohol intake – There is room for alcohol in your diet, but limit it to five or fewer drinks a week (three or fewer is even better). Equivalent drinks relative to alcohol content are: 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, 1.5 oz hard liquor.
- Avoid using cleaning and personal products that contain chemicals linked to cancer – research cleaning and personal care products (like makeup and shampoo) to find out if they contain chemicals that may be carcinogenic. To be safe, use personal care products in well-ventilated areas, open the window or turn on the bathroom fan when using products such as dryer sheets, fabric softeners, deodorizing sprays, all-purpose cleaners, dishwashing detergents, hand sanitizers, and lotions.
- Schedule your mammogram – Depending on your family history and other risk factors, you may need to begin screenings earlier than recommended. It’s important to talk with your physician about the appropriate time to begin regular screenings.
- Ask about genetic risk assessments – Learn about the role of genes, what to look for in your own family tree and what to do if you suspect a genetic cancer risk. Talk to your physician and learn more about genetic risk assessments.
- Think Pink, Live Green – Protect your breast health with education. Learn about risk factors in your environment, and how changing what you and your family eats, drinks, breathes and uses every day may reduce breast cancer risk. Visit livegreen.breastcancer.org to learn more.
“Following these breast healthy steps can also lower your risk of other cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis,” adds Weiss.
Main Line Health is dedicated to improving breast health for women of all ages. We offer a comprehensive range of breast care services to meet a woman’s physical and emotional needs. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health's breast health services.