Two women holding pink ribbons in honor of breast cancer awareness month.

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Lindsey Brumm, R.D., L.D.

As you may already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual campaign helps spread awareness about breast cancer—as well as presents us with an opportunity to raise funds to support research for prevention, treatments, and finding a cure.  

Breast Cancer Stats & FAQs

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 255,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. For men, this number is around 2,300 per year [1]. 

Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer affecting women today [2], with certain skin cancers being among the most common types of cancer. 

There are certain factors that may put you a greater risk of this disease, which are  sometimes out of your control, such as: 

  • Age: It’s reported that women over the age of 50 may be at great risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Family History: If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be prone to this condition, as well.
  • Genetic Mutations: According to the CDC, “Women who have inherited [genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2]… are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer” [3].

Reducing Your Risk of Cancer

Though in some cases, breast cancer may be genetic, there are still many lifestyle choices you can make to help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer or other serious diseases.

Let’s review a few!

Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Excess fat tissue, for example, can raise estrogen levels in the body, increasing your risk [4]. 

  • Higher insulin levels can also occur when you are overweight, which has also been linked to breast cancer. 

Fortunately, many of the activities and lifestyle choices we choose to do may help reduce our risk of cancer, as well as achieve long-term weight loss. For example, studies reveal that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk. 

It is also suggested that exercise helps regulate estrogen and insulin in the body, which helps reduce the risk of breast cancer. 

  • It’s recommended [5] you perform 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week—preferably spread throughout the week.

According to the Mayo Clinic [6], maintaining a healthy weight could reduce your risk of several different disease, in addition to breast cancer, such as:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Kidney cancer

Making Healthy Food Choices

There are also many foods that we can include in our daily diet that can help fight against cancer. 

  • Antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help fight free radicals that can cause damage to the body and lead to cancer. 

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) [7], the following foods have been identified to contain the highest amounts of antioxidants, as well as other cancer fighting properties:

  • Dark leafy greens contain antioxidants known as carotenoids that can slow the development of certain breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, skin cancer and stomach cancer. They also contain fiber, folate, and flavonoids that also aid in cancer prevention. 
  • Walnuts have been studied for their cancer preventative effects more than any other nut, according to the AICR, because they contain high amounts of polyphenols and phytochemicals. These have antioxidant properties, in addition to the protective effects of other nutrients, such as Omega-3 fatty acids.  
  • Other great foods to include in your diet are berries, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, flaxseed, garlic, tea, etc.

Avoiding Certain Foods

On the same note, there are several foods that we’ll want to avoid, as they could have the opposite effect—meaning they may actually increase our risk of developing cancer [8]

  • Red and processed meats should be limited, as they could cause damage to the lining of the colon—leading to colorectal cancer. 
  • Alcohol has been linked to an increased risk in developing several different types of cancer, especially when combined with smoking. 
  • Salt may damage the lining of your stomach and increase the risk of stomach cancer. The recommendation for salt intake is to consume no more than 2300 mg/day. If an individual has hypertension, chronic kidney disease, is over 51 years of age, or is African American, the recommendation is no more than 1500 mg/day of salt.

How You Can Raise Breast Cancer Awareness

In addition to incorporating these healthy activity and food choice habits into your routine, there are many other opportunities to show your support for Breast Cancer research. 

Below, we’ve listed a few events and organizations that you might be interested in partaking in this month or making a donation to:

  • Making Strides of the Twin Cities will be hosting a fundraising event on Saturday, October 16th at the Mall of America at 8:00 a.m.
  • The Twin Cities Natural Hair & Beauty Expo on Sunday, October 17th will be honoring Breast Cancers Survivors with their “Pink and Purple Edition.
  • Susan G. Koman will be hosting a Virtual Walk on Saturday, October 23rd  
  • Glencoe Regional Health will be hosting a five-night event called “Mammos by Moonlight” to provide Mammograms and will be offering gift bags and prizes for those that participate. 

As you can already see, there are many activities we can do in our daily life to help prevent cancer. However, even with these healthy habits, many will still contract this horrible disease. 

This is why regular doctor checkups and mammograms are so important for early prevention! Be sure you understand the common signs and symptoms of breast cancer, so you can contact your doctor to get checked out. 

Together, we can all defeat breast cancer and start living healthier lives each new day!

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Resources

[1] Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Basic Information about Breast Cancer.” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/index.htm

[2] CDC. “Breast Cancer Statistics.” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/index.htm

[3] CDC. “What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer.” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/risk_factors.htm

[4] American Cancer Society. “How Your Weight May Affect Your Risk of Breast Cancer.”https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/how-your-weight-affects-your-risk-of-breast-cancer.html

[5] Today’s Dietitian: “Preventing Cancer—Recommendations from the AICR Can Help Clients Lower Risk.” https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100112p64.shtml

[6] Mayo Clinic: “Cancer Prevention: 7 Tips to Reduce Your Risk” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816

[7] The American Institute for Cancer Research. “Foods that Fight Cancer.” http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/

[8] Today’s Dietitian. “Preventing Cancer—Recommendations From the AICR Can Help Clients Lower Risk.” https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100112p64.shtml