Breast cancer may strike without warning, but understanding the risk factors and adopting healthy lifestyle habits will help to lower your risks. In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, here are 8 tips to boost breast health:
1. Manage your weight
It has been found that an increase in body fat is related to a greater risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The production of estrogen in women’s fat tissue after menopause is a major contributing factor to breast cancer. In overweight women, estrogen-sensitive breast cancer tissues are exposed to higher levels of estrogen than in women of healthy weight, which can stimulate tumour growth. Moreover,overweight women are also at greater risk of breast cancer reoccurrences than women with a healthy weight despite appropriate treatment. Therefore, it’s crucial for women to maintain a healthy weight to reduce breast cancer risks.
2. Get moving
We all know that exercise is good for health, but did you know that it can reduce your risks of breast cancer? Research has found that physical activity reduces the risks of breast cancer in women by at least 15%. Another study found that resistance training reduces biomarkers associated with breast cancer progression.
Aim to have at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week.
3. Stay hydrated & eat well
Having a balanced diet is one of the most crucial aspects of breast cancer prevention. Fill up on fruits and vegetables, especially cancer-fighting foods like broccoli, cabbage, kale, watermelon and whole grains. Cut down on refined sugars and fats, and make sure to drink 2 to 3 litres of water a day. Try to cut down on, or avoid sugary beverages altogether – a study has found that consumption of sugary drinks increases the risk of breast cancer and cancer in general.
4. Limit alcoholic drinks
Alcohol consumption is one of the most well-established risk factors for breast cancer. This is because alcohol may increase estrogen levels in your body, contributing to breast cancer growth. However, that’s not to say that you have to give up on drinks entirely – drink moderately and stick to the recommended limit of 1 drink or less in a day.
5. Take vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D could contribute to a higher risk of breast cancer. While sun exposure could give you the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, it could increase your risk of skin cancer. Experts suggest consuming vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, cheese, egg yolks and milk. You may consider taking vitamin D supplements, but make sure to speak to your doctor about the benefits, risks and recommended dosage.
6. Know your family history
If you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancers, you may be at greater risk of developing breast cancer. Consider genetic testing to check if you carry the BRCA gene mutation if you have close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer.
7. Watch for warning signs
Perform self-examination and look out for tell-tale signs of breast cancer, including the following:
- Feeling of a firm, painless lump in the breast;
- Swollen breasts or underarm;
- A previously protruding nipple that becomes inverted;
- Bloody discharge from the nipple;
- Size or shape changes in the breast;
- A persistent rash at the nipple or areola
If you notice any breast changes, please report them to your health provider immediately.
7. Go for regular screening
Apart from monitoring for warning signs, you are recommended to go for regular breast cancer screening. Early detection often results in better treatment outcomes. Women between the ages of 45 to 54 are advised to get mammograms every year.
Osler Health takes a holistic approach to women’s health and offers comprehensive health services, including screening, routine gynaecological health checks, contraceptive consultations, menopausal health, mental health, sexual health and more. Visit our clinics in Singapore now.