For many women, the words “breast cancer” are scary and can cause panic and worry, but they’re hard not to think about sometimes. Many people know a friend or loved one who has been touched by the disease, and there are many concerns about the causes of it. You might find yourself wondering if there’s anything you can do to be more proactive and help reduce your risk. The answer is “yes”. You can make some lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
To understand a bit of the current statistics, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. It is considered the second most common cancer among U.S. women, behind skin cancer. Breast cancer occurs more often in women who are 50 years old or older, but men can also develop the disease. Although scientists have identified many risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer, they do not yet know what causes normal cells to become cancerous. Experts tend to agree that breast cancer is caused by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors.
10 Things You Can Do to Help Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer prevention begins with identifying causes and maintaining healthy habits. While there is no surefire way to completely prevent the disease, there are a number of things you can do to help lower your risk of getting it.
Exercise more often. Engaging in regular exercise can help boost your body’s immune system, maintain a healthy weight, and possibly even lower your estrogen levels, thus decreasing the chance that you’ll get breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society(1), adults should engage in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity every week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week to lower your risk of developing cancer -- that’s a minimum of just 20 minutes per day! And, if you have daughters, statistics have shown that women who exercised or played sports more than seven hours a week during ages 5-19 had lower risk of breast cancer as adults.
You can find some helpful, regularly updated, at-home exercise routines in our Monthly Calendar of Free Online Exercise, Health & Fitness Events.
- Maintain a healthy weight. According to research(2), women who gain at least 55 pounds after 18 years of age are 45% more likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer. The more fat tissue you have in your body, the more estrogen your body has the potential to produce. It’s this excess estrogen that puts women at an increased risk for both breast and uterine cancers. Also, overweight women tend to have higher insulin levels, which have also been linked to breast cancer. Practicing portion control, making necessary dietary shifts, and regular physical activity are all components of a successful weight loss/management effort and can help protect against breast cancer.
Balance your diet. It’s never too late to start improving your diet. Choose whole grains, opt for lots of fresh fiber-rich vegetables and colorful fruits, eat smaller portions, and limit sugar and processed foods to reduce weight gain and lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Specifically, experts suggest eating a range of cruciferous veggies like kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli that contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Eating lean poultry like fish instead of red meat and adding other foods like nuts, salmon, and olive oil may also help lower your cancer risk.
Taking your vitamins can help too. Postmenopausal women who had higher levels of vitamin D in their blood or who reported taking vitamin D supplements at least four times a week had lower rates of breast cancer.
Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, right? We get it: Sleep is a luxury and an afterthought for many women, particularly new mothers. However, it’s important to try to get between six and nine hours of sleep every night. A 2017 study(3) found an increased risk of breast cancer among women who had higher exposures to nighttime light, thus supporting the idea that disrupted circadian rhythms -- or the 24-hour cycle of day and night or wake and sleep -- are part of the equation.
And, try to find ways for consistency in your night’s sleep. An association was found between having trouble sleeping four or more nights per week with increased breast cancer risk.
- Limit alcohol. Compared to women who drink no alcohol at all, women who consume three alcoholic beverages per week are 15% more likely to develop breast cancer(4). Experts estimate that for each drink you have each day, your risk of developing breast cancer increases 10%. According to the American Cancer Society, women should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day(5), which is the equivalent of 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of regular beer.
- Don’t smoke. We all know that smoking is unhealthy. But on top of causing wrinkles, bad teeth, and a smelly breath, smoking also lowers your quality of life and increases the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and at least 15 different types of cancer -- including breast cancer. The age when you started smoking, how much you smoke, and how long you continue to smoke all affect your likelihood of developing the disease. Now, that’s motivation to work to get smoke-free or stay smoke-free!
- Breastfeed your littles -- if you can. Not only does breastfeeding have great health benefits for your child, but studies also show that breastfeeding for at least 12 months can reduce the risk of breast cancer(6). This can be attributed to the fact that women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles and, therefore, lower estrogen levels. These women may also be more likely to lead healthier lifestyles and eat more nutritious food while breastfeeding.
- Think twice about HRT. According to the American Cancer Society, the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause can increase the risk of breast cancer(7). While post-menopausal HRTs that use a combination of progestin and estrogen can help to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and osteoporosis, experts recommend that women only take HRT for the shortest time possible -- and only if absolutely necessary. You may be able to manage your systems with estrogen-only hormone therapy or non-hormonal medications and therapies instead. If you’re considering HRT, be sure to talk to your doctor about the associated risks and whether HRT is right for you.
- Know your family’s health history. Women who have a family history of cancer -- about 5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary -- can take steps to lower their risk, so it’s important information to know. If you aren’t sure, now is the time to reach out to family members who may be able to help. You may be at high risk of developing breast cancer if you have a sister or mother who developed ovarian or breast cancer or if you have several family members -- including males -- who developed prostate, ovarian, or breast cancer. A genetic counselor or doctor can help you understand the disease as well as your family history.
- Schedule your mammogram. Despite some controversy, studies show that getting yearly mammograms can save lives, particularly because mammograms detect malignant tumors and other abnormalities that are often missed in a self-exam. While screening doesn’t prevent cancer per se, it can help your doctor detect cancer in its early stages -- when it’s most treatable. Although most women can begin getting regular mammograms as early as age 40, specific recommendations can vary by risk and age. For instance, mammograms are recommended every year for women between the ages of 45 and 54 and every other year -- or yearly, if desired -- for those 55 years of age and older.
Environmental Factors that Can Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer
While we’ve covered just 10 things that are in your control, it’s just as important to be on the lookout for other potential risk factors that might be associated with environmental factors or toxins. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has an informative report on Breast Cancer Risk and Environmental Factors.
This report includes concerns for environmental exposures from things like chemicals found in common household and personal care products, pesticides, or other chemicals we come into contact with through foods and beverages, creams or lotions we use on our skin or the air we breathe and more.
Is There a Link Between Cell Phones and (Breast) Cancer?
In short, we don’t fully know, but we do know that more research is needed. 5G technology is here now, and there are increasing concerns about the effects that this new technology -- and its cell phone towers and stations -- will have on our bodies and overall health. While some experts believe that 5G produces radiofrequency radiation that can disrupt cell metabolism, can damage DNA, cause oxidative damage that results in premature aging, cause cancer, and possibly paves the way for other diseases by way of stress protein generation, others aren’t convinced. So, what can we do?
We can continue to take a proactive approach by making sure we’re keeping the recommended safe distance between our phones and our bodies, reserving the amount of time we’re on our phones, using hands-free technology like wired headsets whenever we can, and incorporating other, safer phone use options.
It’s also why we’ve developed our patented cell phone pocket for those times when we absolutely have to keep our phones on us -- and close to our bodies! This pocket is designed to keep your phone working while also helping to protect the body’s soft tissue, like breast tissue, from potentially harmful EMF that might cause bodily cellular disruption. You can currently find these protective phone carrying pockets in many of our sport tops & sports bras, with more designs coming soon!
While we should be able to trust that scientists will do everything they can to keep us safe, for now, we can remain diligent, proactive, and protect ourselves in as many ways possible. Ultimately, when it comes to breast cancer, it’s important to be informed, particularly because there’s a wealth of incorrect information out there about the disease.
To address some common myths(8):
- Wearing a bra, underwire or not, does not affect your chance of developing breast cancer in any way.
- Consuming a lot sugar in our diet will not put you at risk for breast cancer, however, it can put you at risk for other health issues like diabetes or heart disease.
- You will not increase your risk of getting breast cancer if you use antiperspirants or shave your underarms, but the safety of some antiperspirants is still being studied.
While October brings about pink ribbons, awareness of the disease, and fundraising for breast cancer research, it’s important to be proactive about your overall health and, specifically, breast health all year round.
References & Additional Reading:
(1) American Cancer Society – Fitting in Fitness
(2) Susan G. Komen - Factors that Affect Breast Cancer – Body Weight & Weight Gain
(3) Environmental Health Perspectives - Outdoor Light at Night and Breast Cancer Incidence in the Nurses’ Health Study II
(4) Breastcancer,org – Drinking Alcohol
(5) American Cancer Society – Alcohol Use and Cancer
(6) Susan G. Komen – Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer Risk
(7) American Cancer Society – Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer Risk
(8) Breastcancer,org – Breast Cancer Myths vs. Facts
Each year, when October roles around, we use it to help raise public awareness on the topic of breast cancer. The statistics for those diagnosed with breast cancer continue to grow, but the death rates from those affected by breast cancer seem to be decreasing. That says something!
Here are the U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics updated on 01/09/2018 from breastcancer.org:
- About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12.4%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
- In 2018, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
- About 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2018. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
- Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
- About 40,920 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
- For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
- Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2017, it’s estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
- In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower.
- As of January 2018, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
- A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
- About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 55-65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 45%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
- About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
- The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
The statistics tell us that our continued efforts to spread the word for breast cancer awareness is useful. So, we will continue to point out any helpful tips and/or ways to manage and grow our awareness on this topic. We, at SportPort, will also continue to design, create and offer our patented designed sports bras and athletic tops that include a phone-safe pocket. We created our unique sports bra design as a pro-active measure for being able to carry our phone close to our bodies while staying safe in do so. There is not enough awareness and not enough science supporting issues around EMF and the EMF our phones use to function. We don’t want to say “sorry”… we hope to better stay… “safe”!
Here is a current compilation of some of the best tips on risk and proactive measures for our breast cancer concerns:
- Women (and men) with close relatives who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, ovarian or prostate cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease.
- About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child.
- If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re 3 to 4 times more likely to develop a new cancer in the other breast or a different part of the same breast.
- If you had radiation to the chest to treat another cancer (not breast cancer), you have a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer.
- Research has shown that dense breasts can be 6 times more likely to develop cancer and can make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer.
- If you had radiation to the face at an adolescent to treat acne (something that’s no longer done), you are at higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
- Overweight women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause.
- Research shows a link between exercising regularly at a moderate or intense level for 4 to 7 hours per week and a lower risk of breast cancer (and can help keep weight in check). Studies suggest a 25-40% average risk reduction is possible among physically active women as compared to the least active women.
- Women who haven’t had a full-term pregnancy or have their first child after age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who gave birth before age 30.
- Breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than 1 year.
- Women who started menstruating younger than age 12 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.
- Women who go through menopause when they’re older than 55 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.
- Current or recent past users of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Limiting dose and duration can help, so discuss your concerns, treatment and options with your doctor.
- Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages above moderate levels — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Keep alcohol at moderate levels or lower (a drink a day or under). A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
- Smoking causes a number of diseases and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women.
- Don’t forget mammography screenings… studies show that breast cancer screening with mammography saves lives. It doesn’t help prevent cancer, but it can help find cancer early when it’s most treatable.
- Avoid exposure to environmental pollution. Cancers mat be caused by pollution that affects us through our environment. They can come in many forms of chemicals, such as chemicals used and found in our foods, in our makeup, cosmetics and even sunscreens, in the use of some plastic products, in certain water sources, used in our lawns and gardens to kill weeds or pests and more.
- Avoid exposure to radiation. Radiation exposure is not just from an x-Ray. Radiation comes in many forms, with some forms considered less harmful than others. The demand for EMF (electromagnetic) or RF (radio-frequency) radiation is growing fast due to higher demands for computers, increased WiFi needs, and better smart cellphone service. No one knows with certainty what the damage of the excess EMF exposure might be. Scientific studies take longer than the growth on demand and production for technological gadgets. So…
SportPort believes that an active and proactive lifestyle is important. That’s why we created the first-ever sports bra with a cellphone safety pocket to help protect against EMF passing through your phone. And, we will continue to incorporate EMF safety standards and cellphone safe-use into our lives and sportswear. For more information about what SportPort has learned and knows, see our Knowledge Base of articles.
Resources and more information on breast cancer and breast cancer awareness:
– Breast Cancer Statistics from BreastCancer.org (as listed above): https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
– Breast Cancer Facts from the National Breast Cancer Foundation: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts
– Breast Cancer Genetic Factors from BreastCancer.org: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/genetics
– Breast Cancer Risk Factors from BreastCancer.org: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors