It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month – How Can I Decrease My Risk? By: Tanya Hunt, APRN, Women's Care Florida

October 08, 2019

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You’ve seen the pink ribbons and maybe you’ve worn a pink shirt or participated in a breast cancer event. You might also know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime or that breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women (following skin cancer).  What you might not know is that there are preventative breast care steps that you can take which may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. 


Limit alcohol intake - Many studies have shown that alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, women who have 1 alcoholic drink per day have up to a 10 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer compared with non-drinkers. Women who have 2-3 drinks per day have about a 20 percent increased risk.


Quit smoking - Studies suggest that there is an increased risk of breast cancer in smokers.  Researchers are also looking at the risk of secondhand smoke in relation to breast cancer.


Maintain a healthy weight - Being overweight or obese has been shown to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This is especially important after menopause.  When you go through menopause the ovaries stop producing estrogen.  Most of the estrogen is then produced by your fat tissue. Having more fat tissue can raise estrogen levels and increase the risk of developing breast cancer.  Also, many women who are overweight or obese have higher insulin levels, which have also been shown to increase the breast cancer risk.


Breastfeeding -Breastfeeding your baby has shown a protective effect in multiple studies.


Exercise - Regular physical activity has also been shown to provide protection against breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week.


Have a healthy diet - There is still a lot of research being done on how diet can affect breast cancer risk.  Some studies show a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil may help decrease the risk in developing breast cancer.


Know your family history - If you have a family history of breast (or other) cancers, it is important to let your provider know.  There are tests available to check if you have a hereditary gene mutation which may increase your risk of developing certain cancers.  Your health care provider can help you determine if you meet criteria for testing and discuss additional options that may help decrease your risk of developing cancer. 


Know your breasts - It is important that all women are familiar with their breasts.  Know what your normal breast tissue feels like.  It is then easier to determine if there has been a change such as skin changes or a new lump.  Mammograms are a screening tool that can help detect early breast cancer. Talk to your health care provider about when you should begin theses screenings.


If you are in need of a health care provider, Women’s Care Florida is a specialty women’s health group offering comprehensive patient care.  As part of our health care team, our board certified breast surgeons provide multidisciplinary care and specialize in breast evaluation and treatment, breast surgery, breast disease, breast cancer and oncoplastic surgery.  We have dedicated imaging and diagnostic centers in Tampa and Orlando. Please visit our website to find a Women’s Care Florida provider.