October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 26,300 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. This represents 25% of all new cancer cases in women in 2017. The same year, 5,000 women died from breast cancer. This represents 13% of all cancer deaths in women in 2017.
The number of women and families impacted is enormous.
In that spirit of prevention, we wanted to focus on the most important things you are can do to prevent breast cancer before it begins.
1. Make time for regular exercise
Adopt an active lifestyle. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity at least five days per week. The average risk reduction when comparing the highest versus lowest levels of physical activity is 25%. <source>
2. Minimize or avoid alcohol
Alcohol is one of the most well-established dietary risk factors for breast cancer. Women who consume more than two glasses of alcohol a day are at higher risk. <source>
3. Eat more veggies
Consume more cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), dark leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, and cherries. Cruciferous veggies help the body detoxify excess estrogens and chemicals that are associated with increased breast cancer risk. <source>
4. Maintain a healthy body weight
If you can consistently connecting to the three lifestyle factors above, then you’ll have a much better chance of maintaining a healthy body weight. Plenty of moderate exercise, a plant-based diet, and avoidance of alcohol is usually a slam-dunk in this area.
Maintain a BMI less than 23 throughout your life. Weight gain and obesity may increase your risk of breast cancer. <source>
What does a BMI of 23 mean? Here’s how to calculate yours. This way of evaluating weight isn’t perfect–it doesn’t take into account body composition or structure–but it is a place to begin evaluating if weight loss is an area you need to focus on.
5. Quit smoking
The risk of breast cancer (and many others) increases if you smoke. Smoking is associated with a modest but significant increased risk of breast cancer, particularly among women who started smoking at adolescent or peri-menarcheal ages. The relative risk of breast cancer associated with smoking was greater for women with a family history of the disease. <source>