Weight-Overweight and obese women — defined as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 25 — have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight can also increase the risk of the breast cancer coming back (recurrence) for those women who have had the disease.
This higher risk is because fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow.
Still, the link between extra weight and breast cancer is complicated and affected by other factors. For example, the location of the extra weight matters. Extra fat around your belly may increase risk more than the same amount of extra fat around your thighs or hips.
Diet- Diet is thought to be partly responsible for about 30% to 40% of all cancers. No food or diet can prevent you from getting breast cancer. But some foods can make your body the healthiest it can be, boost your immune system, and help keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible. Research has shown that getting the nutrients you need from a variety of foods, especially fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, can make you feel your best and give your body the energy it needs. Eating food grown without pesticides may protect against unhealthy cell changes associated with pesticide use in animal studies.
Exercise- 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. Exercise consumes and controls blood sugar and limits blood levels of insulin growth factor, a hormone that can affect how breast cells grow and behave. People who exercise regularly tend to be healthier and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and have little or no excess fat compared to people who don’t exercise.
Fat cells make estrogen and extra fat cells make extra estrogen. When breast cells are exposed to extra estrogen over time, the risk of developing breast cancer is higher.
Alcohol- Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol also may increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells.
Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.
Smoking- Smoking causes a number of diseases and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women. Research also has shown that there may be link between very heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
Smoking also can increase complications from breast cancer treatment including:
- damage to the lungs from radiation therapy
- difficulty healing after surgery and breast reconstruction
- higher risk of blood clots when taking hormonal therapy medicines
Steps you can take- Losing weight can be harder as you get older, but it can be done. Talk to your doctor about a safe and sensible plan to lose weight designed specifically for you and your needs.Denise Cates, RN with Bayshore Home Care urges everyone to make time in their schedule for regular exercise. She says, “Exercise helps reduce not only your risk for breast cancer but also for many other health issues that can be prevented.” Denise also suggests finding an exercise partner as this extra accountability often helps you make changes in your routine and get into the habit of exercising regularly.
Although most alcoholic beverages are consumed in a social setting you don’t need to restrict your interactions with your friends in order to decrease your consumption. Try drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage to cut back.
Quitting smoking can be a very difficult task and something that youmay have attempted multiple times in the past. Just because you have not had long term success yet doesn’t mean it is impossible. If you need extra resources to help quit smoking visit http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/.
Information provided in part by:
“Breast Cancer Risk Factors” Breast Cancer.org Web, Sept 30, 2012 <http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors>