Staff Partner, ACS Marco Island
Aside from family history and aging, which cannot be controlled, there are certain healthy lifestyle habits that can potentially lower your risk and protect your breast health. Below is a list of five different factors that may be able to help you, courtesy of www.cancer.org:
1. Watch Your Weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of breast cancer, particularly after menopause, and for women who have gained weight as adults. Most of a woman’s estrogen post-menopause comes from fat tissue, and having more fat tissue increases estrogen, which could increase your chance of getting breast cancer. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher levels of insulin (another hormone), which has also been linked to breast cancer, as well as some other types.
2. Exercise Regularly
The difference in risk between the most active and the least active women is typically around 25%. A study by the Women’s Health Initiative revealed that brisk walking for as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
3. Limit Time Sitting
In an American Cancer Society study, women who spent six hours or more a day sitting outside of work had a 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than 3 hours a day. Those women who sat longer also showed an increased risk for other types of cancer too.
4. Limit Alcohol
Studies show that women who have two to five alcoholic drinks daily have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who drink only one drink a day or not at all. It’s not clear how or why alcohol increases the risk, or which women are most likely to be affected. However, it is especially important to limit alcohol if you have breast cancer in your family or other higher risk factors.
5. Avoid/Limit HRT
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was used more often in the past to help control menopausal symptoms, but research now shows that postmenopausal women taking a combination of estrogen and progestin may be more likely to develop breast cancer. The risk appears to return to normal within five years of stopping the hormone combination. Talking to your doctor to make the best decision for you is always recommended. If you decide to try HRT, it is best to use it at the lowest dose that works for you, and for as short a time as possible.
Please remember to always consult your doctor regarding your personal situation, and specific risks.
The American Cancer Society has a local office on Marco Island, located at 583 Tallwood Street, Suite 101. In our local office, we provide free wigs/wig fittings, informational pamphlets, and loaned books for patients and caregivers. There is also our Road to Recovery program, where volunteers drive patients, who do not have alternative transportation, to doctor appointments and treatments. All of these resources are free of charge. To reach our office and speak with a member of the staff who may assist you, please call 239-642-8800. Additionally, our neighboring Naples office location offers our Look Good Feel Better program, where makeup and hairstylists come and pamper women for an afternoon. On a larger scale, by calling 1-800-227-2345, you may be transferred to a representative that specializes in your particular type of cancer, and they can offer day-to-day help or even emotional support 24/7. If you are struggling with your diagnosis or just need someone’s support, you can call this helpline even late at night, and there will always be someone there for you to talk to. The resources they can provide patients is vast, and most are undisclosed to staff; this number provides a secure place to speak about private information that never gets released to local offices, or anywhere else. This is why it is so important to call the hotline and speak with a specialist who can offer you aid in any aspect of your difficult journey through cancer treatment.
More detailed information on these risk factors, as well as other helpful information on breast cancer, and other types of cancer can be found on www.cancer.org.
This is an ongoing series of columns dedicated to informing the Marco Island community about the American Cancer Society, the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health concern by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Marco Island American Cancer Society office is located at 583 Tallwood St., Suite 101 and is open daily from 9 AM-5 PM. For more information about volunteering or any of the events mentioned in this column please contact Sue Olszak or Lisa Honig at 239-642-8800 ext. 3890.