Screening mammograms are used to detect breast cancer, but we shouldn’t rely solely on better breast cancer detection. Additionally, we should be tackling the root causes in order to prevent breast cancer.
This blog post discusses 5 diet and lifestyle habits that have been shown to prevent breast cancer, slow its growth, and potentially increase the survival after a diagnosis.
1. Maintain a healthy body weight
One of the most important things you can do to decrease your risk for breast cancer is to maintain a normal body weight. Excess body fat increases the risk of many types of cancer, including breast, uterine, colorectal, esophageal, pancreatic, and kidney cancer.
Being overweight triggers inflammation and insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes) which is linked to higher cancer risks. The pancreas responds to insulin resistance by producing more insulin. Excess insulin is bad for you because insulin is a hormone that makes cells multiply faster than normal. This means cancer cells will grow faster too.
Secondly, excess body fat causes higher estrogen levels in your body. Too much estrogen is bad because it also makes your cells multiply faster than normal, thus giving cancer cells the means to grow faster. [Reference 1]
2. Eat whole plant-based food
After women are diagnosed with breast cancer, they are usually counseled on their nutrition and lifestyle. But there is no good reason to wait. You can start eating healthier now.
The standard American diet is unhealthy because it is a high-fat, high-calorie diet that promotes excessive weight gain. It causes inflammation which makes cancer cells to multiply faster. A healthier diet can significantly lower your risk.
Hold the cheese, please! On October 3, 2019, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization of doctor members, petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to put warning labels on cheese because it contains large amounts of estrogens from cows. The proposed labels would read. “Dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk.” [Reference 2] That’s something that would get our attention.
Keep in mind, the solution isn’t just about avoiding the bad stuff. You need to be adding good food to your diet as well. The American Institute for Cancer Research reported on strong evidence that eating a healthy diet helps prevent cancers and recommends including an abundance of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. [Reference 3 ]
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and collard greens, are especially powerful cancer-fighting foods. Read all about how they inhibit cancer in my other blog post, Top Cancer Fighting Foods.
3. Stop drinking alcohol
There is strong evidence that alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers. These include cancers of the breast, mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colorectum, and liver. Studies show that increases cancer progression and cancer-related mortality.
Even small amounts of alcohol increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that less than one drink a day increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. [Reference 4]
Another study found there is no safe threshold for alcohol when it comes to the risk of cancer. [Reference 5 ]
4. Engage in vigorous physical activity
Research indicates that vigorous physical activity significantly decreases the risk of breast cancer. [Reference 6 ] This makes sense because physical activity helps maintain a normal body weight. In addition, physical activity has been shown to have a positive boost for the immune system which is beneficial in cancer prevention and survival. Also, sedentary people have a much higher incidence of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes which is associated with a higher risk for cancer.
The World Health Organization’s recommended level of physical activity is 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week. Examples include brisk walking at 4 miles per hour or bicycling.
If you are currently inactive, tell your doctor before you start your exercise routine. Start with small amounts of physical activity and over time gradually increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your workouts.
5. Don’t smoke
Enough is enough. Although the incidence of cigarette smoking is down, we still have a long way to go. In the U.S., 38 million people currently smoke. Smoking cessation is absolutely essential to reduce the incidence of cancer, heart disease and lung disease. E-cigarettes are risky as well. E-cigarettes will seriously harm you because they contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer and lung irritation. [Reference 7]
While mammograms are important, you can start taking control of your future with healthy habits. By changing your diet and lifestyle you can prevent breast cancer and improve your health naturally. You have the power to be well.
I recommend that you learn as much as you can about healthy eating and lifestyle habits so that you can heal yourself and stay well. In the process, you will find that you also have more energy and feel happier. Since you’re already reading this blog you are off to a great start. Next, if you are ready to learn how to reach your goals, I am inviting you to book a Free Discovery Call with me. We will talk about your needs and how working with a health coach like me actually gets results. Book a Free Discovery Call. This is the way to learn how to create a healthier lifestyle and thrive.
Ref 1. How does obesity cause cancer? MD Anderson Center website. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/how-does-obesity-cause-cancer.h27Z1591413.html
Ref 2. Doctors petition FDA to require breast cancer warning label on cheese. Physicians committee for Responsible Medicine website. https://www.pcrm.org/news/news-releases/doctors-petition-fda-require-breast-cancer-warning-label-cheese
Ref 3. Cancer Prevention Recommendations. American Institute for Cancer Research website. https://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/recommendations-for-cancer-prevention/
Ref 4. Chen WY, Rosner B, Hankinson SE, et al. Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. JAMA. 2011; 306(17): 1884-90. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22045766
Ref 5. Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. Am J Public Health 2013;103:641–8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673233/
Ref 6. Niehoff NM, White AJ, Sandler DP. Childhood and teenage physical activity and breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 164(3):697-705, 201 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5553118/
Ref 7. What do we know about e-cigarettes? American Cancer Society website. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/e-cigarettes.html. Accessed October 15, 2019.
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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