Thanks to Angelina Jolie, we're talking about some big, deep, hard-to-swallow, heavy-duty ways to prevent breast cancer this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, like preventative double mastectomies and genetic testing. And while these major medical moves deserve to be a part of the conversation, let's not forget that there are plenty of steps we can be taking on more regular basis to reduce disease risk.
Here, 8 everyday lifestyle habits all women can adopt could have a huge impact ...
- Avoid parabens. Parabens (chemicals like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben) are hormone disruptors (they mimic estrogen in the body) used makeup, moisturizers, hair care and shaving products, etc. They've also turned up in breast cancer tumors ... more than once! The latest study to show this was recently published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology just found that in 40 women with breast cancer who chose to have a mastectomy, 99 percent of the tissue samples had evidence of at least one paraben, and 60 percent showed evidence of FIVE. Makes a pretty good case for steering clear of products that use the chemical.
- Avoid BPA. BPA -- present in eyeglasses and commonly found in the epoxy lining of metal food cans, polycarbonate plastic food containers, including some baby bottles, microwave ovenware,and eating utensils -- is a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt the hormone system. Even miniscule exposures increase risks for breast cancer, so it pays to do what we can to buy foods that aren't canned with BPA, avoid plastic containers made with it, and avoid heating up food in packaging made with it.
- Knowing your breasts/breast self-exams (BSEs). Touching your breasts on a regular basis -- with BSEs -- so you know what's normal and what's not is a simple, easy preventative move we should all be making. After all, 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so being familiar with how your breasts look and feel could save your life.
- Walk. Leisurely walking could reduce risk, according to a recent study.
- Eat your greens. Research done on women who had breast cancer found improved survival rates when the women ate more more cruciferous vegetables over the 36 months following their diagnosis. Experts say cruciferous veggies contain phytonutrients that stop the spread of cancer and halt cancer cells from forming. These phytonutrients also shift estrogen metabolism so your body produces a form of estrogen that doesn’t drive breast cancer.
- Eat more olive oil. Its phytonutrient squalene inhibits tumor growth, and it has a higher monounsaturated fat content than other oils. Monounsaturated fats don’t oxidize in the body. Oxidation, a process that produces chemicals called free radicals, increases cancer risk.
- Eat fatty fish. Women who consumed fish oil supplements had a 32 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer after six years compared to non-users, according to a study from the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The reason: Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which may decrease inflammation. Chronic inflammation could encourage breast cancer development.
- Identifying/treating estrogen dominance. Numerous studies demonstrate excess estrogen can cause breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers (all of which are considered estrogen dependent cancers). Knowing the symptoms of estrogen dominance and seeking hormone balancing treatment can help.
What lifestyle habits do you maintain to reduce your breast cancer risk?
Image via © Andre Schuster/Corbis