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How to reduce your risk of breast cancer: easy ways

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This article is co-written by Janice Litza, MD. Dr. Litz is a certified family doctor from Wisconsin. She is a medical practitioner and has been teaching for 13 years. She graduated from the School of Medicine and Health at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1998.

The number of sources used in this article is 40. You will find a list of them at the bottom of the page.

Cancer is not an independent disease, but rather a whole complex of related diseases of various types of body cells. Cancer occurs when normally normally growing cells go on to uncontrolled growth and continue to divide without stopping. From a scientific point of view, mutations of individual genes occur at the molecular level, leading to the onset of cancer, but it is impossible to predict when and in what place the cancer may develop. Genetic predisposition, lifestyle, as well as protective and risk factors - all this plays a role in the development of cancer. Read the article below to find out how you can reduce your risk of cancer.

How to reduce the risk of breast cancer?

There is strong evidence that regular exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer: a study by scientists from the University of North Carolina confirms that physical activity is the best way to protect yourself from cancer.

As part of the large-scale Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, doctors observed 1,500 women with breast cancer and 1,550 healthy women over the years. Researchers have found that women who engage in sports are much less likely to have breast cancer: for example, brisk walking at least 15 minutes a day can reduce the risk of developing breast tumors by 18%. But fitness fans are most lucky: daily two-hour workouts (10-19 hours a week) reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 30%.

Maintain a healthy weight (BMI 18 to 25)

It has long been proven that being overweight is not just a cosmetic problem. That is why it is important to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life: if you have gained 10 kilograms or more after your 18th birthday, then this already significantly increases the risk of breast cancer, and excess weight after menopause can increase the risk of developing breast tumors by 30 - 60% .

Do not interrupt pregnancy

Although this is not officially confirmed, artificial termination of pregnancy significantly increases the risk of breast cancer. Many experienced gynecologists tell their patients that abortion is a direct route to the oncology clinic, and oncologists often associate the cancer epidemic “with a woman” with the fact that women stopped giving birth and began to terminate the pregnancy en masse.

Remember that women who have children are 30% less likely to have breast cancer than their childless friends.

Do not delay the birth of a baby

According to Australian oncologists, women who give birth to their first child under 25 reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 43% compared with those who have offspring after 29 years.

Breastfeed as much as you can.

Doctors recommend breastfeeding for at least 6 months. The statistics are even more severe: women who breast-feed for a total of at least three years (referring to the total duration for all children) are at 20% less risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who do not breast-feed at all. If, in general, you have breast-fed your children for more than four years, this reduces the risk of breast cancer by more than a third.

Do not mess with hormones

Take hormonal drugs only in case of urgent need - this applies to both birth control pills and any other hormones, including menopause replacement therapy. Choose low-dose drugs that have minimal effect on hormones.

Studies have shown that women taking oral contraceptives have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who are using other methods of protection. However, this risk persists only for 10 years after the end of the dose.

Not a single product in itself is a protection against cancer, however, the method of nutrition and the type of cooking can significantly reduce the risk of any cancer, including breast cancer. A diet with a predominance of plant foods significantly reduces the risk of malignant neoplasms: the basis of nutrition should be vegetables, fruits, cereals and beans, and animal protein should not exceed one third of the total amount of food.

Give up alcohol

Alcohol is dangerous even in small quantities - just a few glasses of alcoholic drinks per week can significantly increase the risk of breast cancer. Recent studies by American doctors have confirmed this: women who drink three to six glasses of wine a week are 15% more likely to get breast cancer than those who don’t drink at all. Those women who drink two or more glasses a day run the risk of getting breast cancer by 51% more than their non-drinking friends.

Use the protective properties of products

Fiber is vital for health, and berries, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, turnip, radish) and green tea can be especially useful - there is a theory according to which they have pronounced anti-cancer properties.

  • Be careful with soy - natural soy in moderation is good, but soy additives and processed foods should be avoided.
  • Eat grapes, especially dark grapes - they found the substance resveratrol in it, which has a powerful effect on the human body as a whole, helping to also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Use flaxseed - it contains lignans, antioxidants that have anti-cancer effects. Add some seeds to porridge, kefir or yogurt, it is also very tasty to sprinkle with flaxseed salad.
  • Love walnuts - According to the latest research, eating several walnuts daily significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer At Risk

When it comes to the risk of developing breast cancer, the existence of a significant number of factors that can increase this risk is officially recognized. People who are closely associated with these factors are at risk for breast cancer.

There are factors with which nothing can be done, they cannot be changed, but it is still worth taking into account, because warned - it means armed. In the end, if you belong to any risk group, you may need to be more vigilant when checking breasts, visit a doctor more often and have a mammogram done and carefully monitor the health of your children.

Breast cancer risk groups - factors that cannot be changed

Breast cancer is not exclusively a female disease, men are also susceptible to it, but women run the risk of developing breast cancer 100 times more than men.

The risk of breast cancer is higher in women whose close relatives have or have had this disease. If breast cancer has been diagnosed in your mother, sister or daughter, this doubles your own risk. However, more than 85% of women who have experienced breast cancer do not have breast cancer in their family history.

According to experts, from 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer are associated with inherited genetic mutations, most often these cases are associated with abnormalities of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women who have defects in these genes are 80% more at risk of developing breast cancer than those who have no changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Breast Density

If the breast has more glandular tissue and less fat, then such a breast is called dense. Women with denser breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer, in addition, dense breast tissue can interfere with early diagnosis of the tumor - they complicate mammography.

Early puberty

Women who had their first menstruation at an early age — that is, before age 12 — have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

Some benign neoplasms in the mammary gland tend to degenerate into malignant over time, which is why if you have been diagnosed with something like this, you should carefully examine yourself and not miss planned visits to the doctor.

Unproven breast cancer risk factors

Often around something that scares people, a whole web of rumors, speculation and scary assumptions is formed. So it is with a terrible disease - breast cancer: it seems that every day there are reports of varying degrees of scientificity, which tell about something else that, presumably, causes breast cancer. Much of this is scientifically unreasonable, but a significant part is scientifically unreasonable only so far ...

  • Artificial abortion or abortion
  • Smoking (active and passive),
  • Environmental pollutants,
  • Underwired bras
  • Silicone implants,
  • The use of deodorants or antiperspirants,
  • Stress.

1. Absolutely, absolutely forbid yourself to smoke

This truth is already tired of everyone. But quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing all types of cancer. 30% of cancer deaths are associated with smoking. In Russia, lung tumors kill more people than tumors of all other organs.

The exclusion of tobacco from your life is the best prevention. Even if you do not smoke a pack a day, but only half, the risk of lung cancer is already reduced by 27%, as the American Medical Association found out. The less you smoke, the better. How to quit, read on Lifehacker.

2. Often look at the scales

Extra pounds will affect not only the waist. The American Cancer Research Institute found that obesity triggers the development of tumors of the esophagus, kidneys and gall bladder. The fact is that adipose tissue not only serves to preserve energy reserves, it also has a secretory function: fat produces proteins that affect the development of a chronic inflammatory process in the body. And oncological diseases just appear against the background of inflammation. If shortened: obesity leads to cancer.

In Russia, 26% of all cases of cancer are attributed by WHO to obesity.

Keeping your weight in a healthy frame is difficult. Fast food is sold on every corner, is inexpensive, and sitting in front of a TV or computer is easier than playing sports. Get on the scales from time to time and make sure that your body mass index does not exceed 25 points.

3. Spend at least half an hour a week training

Sport is on the same level with proper nutrition when it comes to cancer prevention. In the United States, one third of all deaths are associated with the fact that patients did not follow any diet and did not pay attention to physical education. The American Cancer Society recommends exercising 150 minutes a week at a moderate pace or half as much, but more actively. However, a study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2010 shows that even 30 minutes is enough to reduce the risk of breast cancer (which affects one in eight women in the world) by 35%.

Physical activity in itself is beneficial. It helps maintain normal weight and inhibits the development of malignant neoplasms.

4. Less alcohol

Alcohol is blamed for the occurrence of tumors of the oral cavity, larynx, liver, rectum and mammary glands. Ethyl alcohol decomposes in the body to acetic aldehyde, which then under the action of enzymes passes into acetic acid. Acetaldehyde is the strongest carcinogen.

Alcohol is especially harmful to women, since it stimulates the production of estrogen - hormones that affect the growth of breast tissue.

Excess estrogen leads to the formation of breast tumors, which means that every extra sip of alcohol increases the risk of getting sick.

From a couple of glasses of wine a week there will be no serious harm, but daily drinking of alcohol is fraught with cancer.

5. Love Broccoli Cabbage

Vegetables not only enter a healthy diet, they also help fight cancer. Including, therefore, recommendations for a healthy diet contain the rule: half of the daily diet should be vegetables and fruits. Cruciferous vegetables, which contain glucosinolates, substances that, when processed, acquire anti-cancer properties, are especially useful. These vegetables include cabbage: ordinary cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. A 2000 study by Gynecologic Oncology magazine found that glucosinolates reduced the growth of atypical cells in the cervical mucosa.

Other vegetables that help fight cancer:

  • Tomatoes They contain lycopene, an antioxidant that blocks the action of free radicals.
  • Eggplant. Contain nasunin, which also has antioxidant properties.

The more vegetables you eat, the less you put red meat on a plate. Studies have confirmed that people who eat more than 500 grams of red meat per week are at higher risk for colorectal cancer.

6. Stock up on sunscreens

Women aged 18–36 years are particularly susceptible to melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. In Russia, over only 10 years, the incidence of melanoma has grown by 26%, world statistics show an even greater increase. This is also blamed on artificial tanning equipment and the sun's rays. The danger can be minimized with a simple tube of sunscreen. A 2010 study by the Journal of Clinical Oncology confirmed that people who regularly apply the special cream have twice as little melanoma as those who neglect such cosmetics.

The cream must be chosen with a protection factor of SPF 15, applied even in winter and even in cloudy weather (the procedure should turn into the same habit as brushing your teeth), and also not be exposed to sunlight from 10 to 16 hours.

Patricia Ganz, MD, University of California

7. Relax

Stress alone does not cause cancer, but it weakens the entire body and creates the conditions for the development of this disease. Studies have shown that constant anxiety alters the activity of the immune cells responsible for activating the “hit and run” mechanism. As a result, a large amount of cortisol, monocytes and neutrophils, which are responsible for inflammatory processes, constantly circulates in the blood. And as already mentioned, chronic inflammatory processes can lead to the formation of cancer cells. Fortunately, all the ways in which stress is eliminated, from yoga to turning off the work phone after leaving the office, help restore immune cells to normal. In a calm state, your body is not the most hospitable place for oncology.

8. Check

Studies and screenings do not help protect against cancer, but they signal the appearance of dangerous signs (such as polyps in the intestines or suspicious moles). The American Cancer Society recommends starting tests when you are 20 years old (in Russia it makes sense to take a medical examination seriously). Women need to take cytological smears for cervical cancer every three years, and after forty years of age they should do a mammogram every year. Research on colorectal cancer is required after 50 years. The sooner you discover a disease, the easier it is to cure it.

1. Train with weights

Men who are interested in bodybuilding are 40% less likely to die from cancer. Conversely, for example, weak grip correlates with increased risk. Workouts help women fight breast cancer.

Jeron van Vugt, a graduate student from Rotterdam, analyzed case histories of 206 people with bowel cancer. They all went through surgery, but 44% who also suffered from sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue) were 2.1 times more likely to have complications after surgery compared to people who support muscle mass (1). Interested in these issues, van Vugt studied another 816 patients with colorectal cancer who had to remove damaged organs. And again I found that people with normal muscle mass died less often.

There are a lot of studies confirming the health benefits of training.The risks of developing cancer and many other diseases, the likelihood of premature death are reduced. Perhaps the point is to increase sensitivity to insulin, reduce body fat, increase the production of myokine IL-6 (combats inflammation) and AMP-activated protein kinase (inhibits the growth of cancer cells). Or a combination of all these factors. In short, swing.

2. Chew the carrots

Chinese scientists, analyzing ten epidemiological studies, suddenly found a correlation between carrots and prostate cancer (2). The more often and more men ate carrots, the less often this type of cancer developed. The brilliant researchers even calculated the numbers: every 10 grams of carrots per day reduces the risk of prostate cancer by 5%. Scientists believe that carotenoids, which are full in the root crop, should be thanked.
The average carrot weighs about 72 grams, and in a cup of grated carrots about 122 grams, so there’s no need to bite with buckets, like Bugs Bunny. Just one little thing per day significantly reduces the risk of one of the worst diseases for men.

3. Take care of vitamin D

Another interesting thing was revealed when analyzing the epidemiological studies of cancer mortality, cardiovascular disease and diabetes: the farther you are from the equator, the higher the mortality rate for these reasons (3). And if the diagnosis was made in the sunny months, then the patients more often survived. Guessed? This is about vitamin D, which plays a critical role in our immune system.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get it from food - it is found only in some types of fish, mushrooms, a little in egg yolks. Most people are better off taking vitamin D in supplements.

However, as Dr. Michael F. Holik, PhD, says, the “supplemental” vitamin D is not identical to the natural one that is produced when we get sunlight on our skin. Natural slower penetrates the blood and works twice as long.
Of course, you do not need to sunbathe for hours to get it (this adds your own risks): people with dark skin need only 30 minutes in the sun, and people with fair skin should better limit themselves to 10 minutes.

And in winter, of course, you will have to take it in supplements - most people have enough 5000 IU of vitamin D3 (this form is better absorbed) per day.

4. Boost AMPK

We have already mentioned adenosine monophosphate kinase (another name for AMP-activated protein kinase): it controls various processes, including the regulation of cell growth and reproduction. That is, literally makes cancer cells bend from hunger.
To increase the production of AMPK, you can take metformin, which is now prescribed to type 2 diabetics to suppress glucose production. One of the largest studies examined 8,000 diabetics for more than 10 years (4), scientists found that Metformin users had a 54% reduction in the risk of ALL types of cancer.
But metformin also has side effects, for example, lactic acidosis can develop, because of which you can also die. And muscle tissue can grow worse, which is also not to our liking.

Fortunately, there is a natural alternative to this medicine - cyanidin 3-glucoside, polyphenol from dark fruits and berries. It is sold as sports supplements as it helps to gain muscle. Mass + cancer protection = double benefit.

5. Take aspirin

Although scientists are trying to patch up the ozone layer, ultraviolet rays harm our skin, causing DNA damage and cancer. You can be coated with sunscreen from morning to evening, but there is still no complete protection against this.
And here the good old aspirin comes to the rescue. Australian scientists (for whom skin cancer is a real problem) found that those who took aspirin at least twice a week for five years reduced their risk of skin cancer by 60%, and those who took it daily by as much as 90%. The beneficial effect was manifested after a year of administration.

A study published in Cancer magazine found that 60,000 women who took aspirin at least a couple of times a week had a 20% lower risk of melanoma, the worst form of skin cancer. Take 1-2 tablets of baby aspirin daily if you want to protect yourself from these scourges.

6. Drink green tea

Studies show that EGCG, the main catechin of green tea, also protects against skin cancer by causing cancer cell apoptosis - literally killing them (6).
Like aspirin, green tea can reduce the risk of developing the deadliest form of skin disease - melanoma (7).

Many experts believe that you need to get about 250-400 mg of green tea extract (containing the four main polyphenol). Someone thinks that just drinking a cup of tea a day is enough, but there are other opinions - not all forms of EGCG catechin are enough. Tea can be of different varieties, processed differently, etc., so it is difficult to give one recommendation.

The solution is the same - either a fixed-dose supplement (250-400 mg per day), or boil tea leaves for 4 minutes (this increases the catechins in the drink). If you drink from bags, then squeeze the maximum - insist 5-6 minutes. Or you can drink a few cups of ordinary, not too long brewed tea.

7. Season with turmeric

Curcumin is also polyphenol, but especially gifted. Already more than 2000 studies suggest that it can protect against cancer of the prostate, breast, liver, lung, etc. (8). And - unlike chemotherapy - it does not harm healthy cells.

Alas, we do not absorb it very well in its natural form - no matter how many overeat curry, efficiency is low. Look for a supplement in which curcumin is combined with piperine, this improves absorption by 2000%.

8. Add the remaining polyphenols

We’ll list seven more product groups that contain beneficial polyphenols that help fight cancer:

  • Vegetables: artichoke, potatoes, rhubarb, onions, leeks, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, celery.
  • Fruits: various berries, apple, peach, plum, pear, grapes, cherries (the darker the fruits, the more polyphenols).
  • Whole grains: buckwheat, rye, oats, barley, corn, rice, wheat.
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes: black beans, white beans, almonds, pecans, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, flaxseed.
  • Fats: extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, dark chocolate.
  • Drinks: coffee, tea, red wine, coconut water.
  • Spices: oregano, rosemary, soy sauce, cloves, mint, anise, celery seed, saffron, thyme, basil, curry, ginger, cumin (zira), cinnamon, garlic.

Eat foods from each group as often as possible.

And a few words about the attitude to all this

A lot of factors affect the development of cancer, but their influence is different. For example, daily consumption of processed meat increases the risk of cancer by 17-18%, but smoking increases the likelihood of lung cancer by 2500%.

You can, of course, go to extremes: to avoid everything that is associated with cancer, or to ridicule any fears, because in our world today everything causes cancer.
And you can try to avoid obvious carcinogens and add more useful things to your life (listed above). They can both extend it and improve its quality.

1. van Vugt, J.L. A., “The impact of low skeletal muscle mass in abdominal surgery,” Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2017, December 20.

2. Xu X1, Cheng Y, Li S, Zhu Y, Xu X, Zheng X, Mao Q, Xie L. Dietary carrot consumption and the risk of prostate cancer. Nur J Nutr. 2014 Dec, 53 (8): 1615-23.

3. Philippe Autier, MD, Sara Gandini, PhD, “Vitamin D Supplementation and Total Mortality: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, Arch Intern Med. Sept. 10, 2007, 167 (16): 1730-1737.

4. Libby G, Donnelly LA, Donnan PT, Alessi DR, Morris AD, Evans JM. New users of metformin are at low risk of incident cancer: a cohort study among people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009 Sep, 32 (9): 1620-5.

5. Christina A. Gamba, Swetter, Susan, et al. “Aspirin is associated with low melanoma risk among postmenopausal Caucasian women.” Cancer, March 11, 2013.

6. Vayalil PK, Mittal A, Hara Y, Elmets CA, Katiyar SK., “Green tea polyphenols prevent ultraviolet light-induced oxidative damage and matrix metalloproteinases expression in mouse skin.” J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Jun, 122 (6): 1480-7.

7. Ahmad N, Feyes DK, Nieminen AL, Agarwal R, Mukhtar H. “Green tea constituent epigallocatechin-3-gallate and induction to apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in human carcinoma cells.” J Natl Cancer Inst 1997 Dec 17.89 ( 24): 1881-6.

8. Jayaraj Ravindran, Sahdeo Prasad, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Can Curry Kill Tumor Cells Selectively?” AAPS J. 2009 Sep, 11 (3): 495-510.

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