October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Apart from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all races, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 25 in South Africa, according to the 2016 National Cancer Registry (NCR).
Although we cannot completely eliminate the risk of getting breast cancer, research shows that lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of breast cancer, even in women at high risk of contracting the disease. Not only women can get breast cancer, but men too.
Do not smoke. There is a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, predominantly in premenopausal women.
Limit alcohol intake. Have no more than one drink per day. Your risk of breast cancer rises with in increased alcohol intake.
Stay at a healthy weight. Obesity and being overweight is coupled with a greater risk of breast cancer.
Breastfeeding provides a protective effect. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the effect.
Be active. Moderate physical activity of 150 to 300 minutes a week is advised. This should include aerobic activities and strength training.
Curb hormone therapy. Ask your doctor to help manage menopause with non-hormonal therapies. If you are using hormone therapies, use the lowest dose that is effective, and monitor the length of time you take hormones.
Avoid pollution and radiation exposure. Medical imaging methods come with high doses of radiation. Have tests only when undeniably necessary.
Eat a balanced diet. Healthy diets have been linked to a decreased risk for some types of cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Be attentive to breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor. Also ask your physician when to start with screenings and mammograms based on your medical history.
Remember to show your support for those warriors who have fought and is still fighting breast cancer and wear your pink ribbon during the month of October!
CANSA – The Cancer Association of South Africa. 2020. Reduce My Cancer Risk. [online]
Mayo Clinic. 2018. Breast Cancer: How To Reduce Your Risk. [online]