Top Ten New Year Resolutions To Keep Breast Cancer At Bay

by Snigdha Taduri

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It is indeed a startling revelation- breast cancer is a more common occurrence than ever before.  It tops the list of all cancers and presents a surging number of 182,480 new cases being diagnosed in American women this year- a 26 percent rise in US alone. Breast cancer was the most common malignancy in all GCC countries, ranging from 16.1% of female cancers in Oman to 35.4% in Bahrain. Science earlier claimed that ‘genetically predisposed’ women were are high risk of developing this disease. But today, this is rather questionable, as 85 percent of diagnosed cases have no predefined risks associated with them. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive way to pre-empt the possibility of a healthy women coming down with breast cancer.

Breast cancer, by virtue of its newfound popularity, is very well read and talked about by most women. Unfortunately, one can never muster ample resilience to withstand the emotional whirlwind that a breast cancer diagnosis brings along. Some women cannot do much about their genetic make up that makes them more susceptible to the disease. A few others can definitely bring down their risk by implementing lifestyle changes that are proven to actively contribute to this growing population.  Top ten New Year resolutions for breast cancer are:

Resolution 1: Exercise And Stay Active

Exercise boosts immune system and reduces the risk of breast cancer. This was proven by researchers at the National Cancer Institute in the US who showed that 30 minutes of physical activity every day, protected women against breast cancer. Therefore don’t just “work”, but “work out”.

Resolution 2: Watch That Food

Food not just satiates one’s taste buds, but brings joy to many individuals and this equals good health.  That said, a sustained consumption of a high calorie diet would only do more harm than good as being obese can increase cancer risk. A diet made 80% of fresh vegetables and juices, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruit provides enzymes, which augment the growth of healthy cells in the body. Green tea has cancer-fighting properties. Now research has found that walnuts contain healthy fatty acids that slow down the growth of breast cancer. Studies have shown a positive association between soy consumption and a reduction in breast cancer risk.  There are all kinds of yummy ways to add soy to your diet, but stay away from soy supplements as “deconstructed” soy in supplements can actually increase your risk.

According to scientists, “Dietary changes could prevent one-third to two-thirds of all cancer. The number one thing in our diet leading to cancer is eating too many calories.”

Resolution 3: Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is a health peril and in the long run, has a cascading effect on body functions. But having said that, for all of us who enjoy having a drink or two, there are established guidelines that recommend an acceptable intake of spirits on a daily basis.  2- 5 drinks a day increases risk 1½ times compared to those who don’t drink. American Cancer Society suggests limiting the amount to one drink a day. Try to limit yourself to several times a week, and enjoy only one serving when you do drink: a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a shot of hard liquor. After all, there is no harm in trying to keep your spirits low once in a while.

Resolution 4: Reconsider The ‘Pill’

Oral contraceptives are known to increase breast cancer risk while a woman is taking it. Once she stops, her risk decreases over time, and in 10 years disappears completely.

Resolution 5: Experience The Bliss Called ‘Motherhood’ Before 30

Some interesting statistics from the National Cancer Institute reveal:

  • A woman who has her first child after the age of 35 has approximately twice the risk of developing breast cancer as a woman who has a child before age 20.
  • A woman who has her first child around age 30 has approximately the same lifetime risk of developing breast cancer as a woman who has never given birth.
  • Having more than one child decreases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. In particular, having more than one child at a younger age decreases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • In addition, breast-feeding lowers your risk of breast cancer.

Foetal cells take up long-term residence in a mother’s body and alert the mother’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. Although reducing one’s risk of breast cancer is not reason enough to get pregnant, it seems to be a more healthier and practical option for women.

Resolution 6:  Sleep Tight, Sleep Right!

A recent study correlated lack of darkness while sleeping to increased risk of breast cancer. While it’s not sure if this could entirely be true, there is no harm in sleeping soundly with all lights switched off.

Resolution 7: Weight Check

The excerpts of a study conducted by National Cancer Institute in 2005 are as follows:

“Women who gained 55 lbs. or more after age 18 had almost 1½ times the risk of cancer compared with those who maintained their weight. A gain of 22 lbs. after menopause was associated with an increased risk of 18 percent. Losing 22 lbs. after menopause decreased the risk by 57 percent.”

Women with increased weight gain or a BMI of over 30 are at a high risk of breast cancer recurrence as well. Needless to say, keeping weight in check and avoiding obesity is crucial to avoid breast cancer.

Resolution 8: Get Adequate Exposure To Natural Light

Melatonin, a chemical produced during the time your body thinks it should be asleep, helps reduce your breast cancer risk. Artificial light suppresses brain’s melatonin production. If affordable and one has the choice, it is best to avoid working night shifts.

Resolution 9: Avoid Hormone Therapy

Studies have shown that women taking an oestrogen/progestin combination HRT drug (e.g., Prempro) for at least 5 years double their risk of breast cancer. Agreed- hot flashes and mood swings can wreck havoc in one’s life. But undeniably, breast cancer is worse.

Resolution 10: Get Screened

The emphasis on breast screening never seems to be enough. The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman and hence it is recommended that every woman gets a mammogram at least once in two years, especially after the age of 50. An early detection offers better treatment options and lowers the risk of death.

Living with breast cancer isn’t easy. Bring to life the old adage, “Prevention is better than cure” with these top ten New Year resolutions and go on to live a safe, breast cancer free life.

Article by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed-ME

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