It's tough being a woman. I'm feeling that more today than I usually do. All at once, I decided to write on three topics that almost exclusively affect women: PMS, menopause, and now, breast cancer. (Breast cancer can affect men, though the numbers are miniscule).
Here are a few facts that will make your jaw drop:
- Breast cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women in the U.S.
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide
- 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime
And, while breast cancer incidence is on the decline, the American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2012, there will be around 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer, and 39,500 women will die from breast cancer.
Unlike some forms of heart disease and other cancers, a family history of breast cancer slightly increases your risk, but it isn't determinative. While the two highest risk factors for developing breast cancer - gender and age - are out of your hands, the third is not. Being obese or overweight significantly increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
Luckily, there are lifestyle choices and changes that women can make that can reduce their risk of developing the disease. As an added bonus, adopting many of these tips will help you lose weight too!
- Maintain a healthy weight: This is absolutely crucial. Some research has shown that overweight or obese women produce more estrogen than women who maintain a healthy body weight. Lose weight - if you're overweight - and increase your likelihood of staying healthy.
- Eat right: So far, there's no evidence to suggest diet affects breast cancer. Still, there is irrefutable evidence that a healthy diet is absolutely essential to fighting obesity and helping you lose weight. Diets rich in healthy carbs, protein and fiber give you the best chance of staying healthy, while also helping to prevent myriad illnesses.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Research suggests that women who drink are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who don't, and women who drink heavily are at greater risk. Plus, alcohol consumption adds calories and may encourage you to eat more, sabotaging efforts to lose weight.
- Breast feed: I know this can be a touchy subject. Prolonged exposure to estrogen is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast cancer. Estrogen production decreases while a woman is pregnant, and stays low while she breast feeds.
- Exercise: Is there anything a brisk walk can't do? While researchers don't agree on how much exercise is necessary, they all agree that it is necessary. As little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day - plus two weight training sessions a week - can lower your risk and help you lose weight.
The sad truth is that women can do everything right and still develop breast cancer. That's why early detection and treatment are so essential. As my mother always said - and still says, at least once a month - feel your ta-tas! Almost 70% of breast cancer cases are detected by women when they do their own breast exams.