A Review of Breast Health and Breast Cancer Reduction Strategies

Having a diet composed predominately of fruits and vegetables resulted in a lower risk of breast cancer.

In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second most common cancer death in women. Breast cancer screening and early detection is the best strategy for breast cancer detection. Reducing risk factors and living a healthy lifestyle are the best strategies for continued breast health. Here are some healthy tips on what you can do yourself to reduce your risk of breast cancer.


1) Use alcohol in moderation. Breast cancer has been shown to be higher in women who consume 1-3 drinks/day compared to abstainers.
2) Don’t smoke. Smoking is carcinogenic to your body.
3) Breastfeed your babies. A protective effect of breastfeeding has been shown against breast cancer.
4) Eat a healthy diet. A diet composed predominately of fruits and vegetables, resulted in lower risk of breast cancer. The influence of red meat/processed meats, refined grains (white bread, white rice, and white pasta), sugary foods, and high fat diary is not clear. Replace these foods with lean meats, low fat dairy, whole grain breads, brown or whole grain pasta, brown rice, and avoid white sugar whenever possible. Whole grain foods have a lower glycemic index, therefore less sugar in the blood stream.
5) Maintain a healthy weight or at least don’t gain weight after menopause. Obesity and weight gain in postmenopausal women is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
6) Exercise 150 minutes per week. 30 minutes of walking most days, is great exercise for your body. Walking is also a weight bearing exercise and good for bone density and the prevention of osteoporosis. If you can’t walk because of joint problems, try swimming or biking. Just keep moving!!
7) Have your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor. Studies have determined in postmenopausal women, breast cancer was decreased by 12 percent when Vitamin D3 levels where kept above 27 ng/ml. Many people in the Midwest have low Vitamin D levels because we are not exposed to enough sun especially in the Fall and Winter months. Sunshine is needed for the body to synthesize Vitamin D into a useable form for the body. Also Vitamin D is needed for your body to absorb calcium to prevent osteoporosis. If you supplement with Vitamin D, make sure it is D3.
8) Know your breast tissue. Do self-breast exams enough so that you know what normal breast tissue is for you. Even if you forget to do exams monthly, it’s ok as long as you keep doing them. It’s best to start doing breast exams after you have seen your doctor and she/he has done a breast exam. This way you know what your normal is.
9) Limit postmenopausal oral hormone replacement therapy use to 3 years or less. Long-term use (or greater than 3 years) has been associated with the higher risks of breast cancer.
10) Discuss how often you should get your mammogram with your primary care physician as recommendations vary depending on many factors including family history. Regular mammograms are important over the age of 40. Always get a mammogram before starting hormone replacement therapy.


Carolyn Hedrington, MSN, APNP

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