Reducing your risk of breast cancer doesn’t have to be scary or complicated.
Of course, you can’t change your genetic risk or age. But, there are plenty of factors you can control.
Weight Your Risk
Maintaining a healthy body weight comes with many physical benefits (being able to play with your kids) and psychological perks (zipping your skinny jeans). But, shedding extra pounds can also lower your breast cancer risk.
That is why Elaine Lee Wade, M.D., associate director of the Patricia G. Nolan Breast Center at Glenbrook Hospital, advises women to exercise 45 to 60 minutes every day. She admits that can be difficult to achieve and encourages women to start with short periods of walking briskly or riding a stationary bike.
“As little control as people feel that they have over breast cancer, they have more control than they think,” Wade says. “Even if you do 10 minutes of exercise a day, that is better than nothing.”
Cancer Fighting Fats
Crash diets won’t do much for your waist line in the long run, and they certainly won’t decrease your risk of breast cancer. Instead, Wade advocates a Mediterranean diet that includes lots of vegetables and a “modest amount of protein.” Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of steamed broccoli.
In fact, Mary Flynn, PhD, a research dietician and assistant professor at Brown Medical School, says don’t steam your veggies – saute them in a small amount of olive oil and lightly season with sea salt.
Flynn is the co-author of “The Pink Ribbon Diet: A Revolutionary New Weight Loss Plan to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk ” a nutrition guide and cook book to help women reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. She says vegetables cooked in olive oil not only taste better, but also are better for you because healthy fats release cancer-fighting nutrients stored in vegetables.
“People are taught to eat vegetables in the least flavorful way,” Flynn says. “People will look for fat and salt between meals if they don’t get it at the meals.”
Pay Attention to your Girls
The other key component of breast cancer prevention is early detection. Lindsay Avner (pictured above) lost 11 women in her family to breast cancer, which inspired her to establish Bright Pink, a non-profit that empowers women to take charge of their own breast health.
In addition to annual exams with a trusted doctor who listens to your concerns, Avner encourages women to get familiar with their breasts through self exams so they can catch changes early.
“As women, we know our bodies best, and if something is wrong, we know it,” she says. “Sometimes, we’re so overcome by fear, but breast cancer is so treatable if it is caught early.”