Breast Cancer Awareness

By Missy Olson B.S. Nutritional Science, Lifestyle Consultant, Livea


As many of you may already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer, encourage early detection, and fundraise for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, whose top priority is educating women about how to be proactive and advocate for themselves, as it pertains to breast health. Every year, more than 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, meaning 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime (2). It is safe to say that nearly every American will be touched in some way by this disease. Although breast cancer is not preventable, it is important to be proactive about maintaining your overall health, as well as understanding specific risk factors.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Like many other diseases, there are certain risk factors, outside of your control, that can make you more predisposed to breast cancer. The most significant of these risk factors is being a woman. Because a woman’s breast cells are incredibly active following the start of puberty, they are very responsive to estrogen and environmental factors. If breast cells start to grow abnormally, they can divide more rapidly and accumulate, forming a mass or lump. These masses can move to the lymph nodes and spread to other parts of the body. (With that being said, men are not completely void of risk; nearly 3,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.) (1) Some of the other risk factors include:

Age – Women over the age of 45 account for approximately 80% of breast cancer diagnoses every year; the risk is much higher after menopause.

Genetic mutations – Many women have inherited mutations to certain genes, putting them at a higher risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. These are often referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

Personal history or family history of breast cancer or other breast disease – As with many diseases, a family history of breast cancer can put you in a higher risk category.

Having dense breast tissue – Breasts with more connective tissue are more susceptible to breast cancer and make it harder to detect masses in a mammogram.

Reproductive History – Starting menstruation before the age of 12 and/or beginning menopause after the age of 55 subjects your body to hormones for a longer period of time, increasing the risk for abnormalities. (4)

Despite the fact that there are certain risk factors that are completely outside of your control, knowledge is power as it pertains to early detection. Knowing your inherent risk to breast cancer can empower you to better monitor your health and advocate for your screening needs with your healthcare professional.

How Can you Minimize your Risk for Breast Cancer?

Unfortunately, breast cancer is not preventable, but living a healthy lifestyle can decrease one’s risk for all cancers. Here are some healthy lifestyle habits that can decrease your risk of breast cancer and other cancers:

Maintain a healthy weight – Increased body weight, as well as extreme fluctuations in weight, especially after menopause, have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy, consistent weight throughout your life can reduce the risk for most types of cancer. Lucky for you, by the time you complete your Livea program, you will know exactly how to maintain your weight for life!

Stay physically active – Studies have shown that a consistent routine of moderate to vigorous physical activity can decrease the risk for breast cancer, while also helping maintain a healthy weight. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get an average of at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly (1). Check out Livea’s workout video schedule each month to help stay active! You can find it here.

Limit Alcohol Consumption – Regular alcohol usage can increase the risk for most cancers, especially breast cancer. Even small amounts of alcohol daily have been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer due to the fact that alcohol can alter hormones. You can learn more about alcohol and healthy living by reading this Livea blog!

Eating a healthy diet – Incorporating healthy, whole foods into your diet will not only improve your overall health, it can also decrease your risk for breast cancer. Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and citrus fruits have been linked to a decreased risk of cancer, as well as foods rich in Omega 3s. It is also important to limit your consumption of fried and processed foods, as well as sugar and refined carbohydrates (3). Your Livea team is always available to help set up a food plan for a healthy, balanced diet!

In addition to living a healthy lifestyle and understanding your individual risk factors, at-home breast examinations and regular mammograms can help ensure early detection. For more information about breast cancer screening, as well as ways that you can help in the fight to prevent, detect, and cure breast cancer, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation website: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org.

Resources

  1. American Cancer Society. “Breast Cancer.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2022. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment.html
  2. “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” National Breast Cancer Foundation. NBCF, 2022. https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast Cancer Prevention: How to Reduce your Risk.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/breast-cancer-prevention
  4. Selchick, Faith. “A Comprehensive Guide to Breast Cancer.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer