You’re probably thinking, “There’s no way exercising will stop me from getting breast cancer” and, well, you’re right. You can’t completely prevent breast cancer because there are risk factors that are out of your control like genetic mutations and inherited genes.
That being said, that shouldn’t be an excuse to simply ignore the problem; there are certainly still a few things that you can do to help lower your risk and increase your awareness.
1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer. It either directly or indirectly affects so many of us women, so I wanted to walk through a few things we can all watch out for.
So in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, let’s run through what you can be doing to be vigilant and proactive about your own health.
Again I want to stress the importance, first off, that no amount of exercise and nutrition can completely reduce and eliminate your risk of developing breast cancer.
That said, there is a connection between exercise and cancer.
So just, generally speaking, you can lower your risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and increasing your exercise.
How, exactly? Does it have to do with a number of calories you burn, the type of exercises you do, and the frequency at which you work out?
Exercise’s connection with cancer actually comes down to your weight and its effect on hormone regulation.
One connection was found that suggests women who are overweight have a greater chance of developing breast cancer after menopause if they haven’t maintained a healthy weight.
The American Cancer Society says adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to lower their risk.
Here are some examples of vigorous exercise:
And more leisurely activities can be:
Another thing to be cautious of is how much time you spend sitting. The more you sit and the less active you are, the more likely you are to be at risk of developing cancer. I know this sounds scary, especially if you have a full-time desk job, but if there are any breaks you can take just be sure to move around during those!
As far as overall health goes, exercise helps the body to rid itself of toxins and keeps your immune system at fighting strength. It’s not super clear how exercise helps prevent cancer directly, but many think it might have to do with the regulation of estrogen and insulin, which both affect the growth of cancer.
Can diet help?
Some researchers think that a diet low in fat may help lower your risk of breast cancer, but more research is needed to know for sure. There seemed to be an effect when women reduced how much fat they ate by 25%.
In general, it’s really good for you when you limit your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, processed foods.
Also, some researchers recommend eating a lot of fruit, fish, vegetables, poultry, and low-fat dairy products to help lower your risk. And hey, you can’t go wrong with more veggies!
And for those ladies who love their glass of wine, maybe keep an eye out. The American Cancer Society recommends that women who drink should limit themselves to just 1 alcoholic drink a day. If you’re not sure what qualifies as one drink, that would be 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Bummer! But moderation in all things, right?
What other things should I do?
If breast cancer runs in your family, there are tests that you can do to see if you are more at risk.
One thing to check out is whether you have specific gene mutations that can make you more at risk.
Human genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 can help you know if you are more at risk for breast cancer.
Mutated genes put you at risk because you may not be able to properly produce the protein used to block tumors, or it could mean your DNA isn’t repairing properly.
55-65% who have the BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer, and 45% who have BRCA2 will develop breast cancer. This is just to show you that it’s something you should really watch out for.
Another thing to be cautious of is using hormone therapy after menopause because it may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The last thing, lifestyle changes should not be used as substitutes for medical treatment! While making healthy choices are great, they’re not a solution for cancer. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing as much as you can to help your body.
On top of that, I think it’s super important to be aware of your body. Even just being mindful of checking for signs and talking to your doctor can make you in the very least, ahead of the problem. When it comes to cancer, the earlier you know you’re developing it the better.
So clean out your pantry, get regular check-ups and go outside for a brisk walk! To learn more about preventative measures, check out this blog article on mammograms and what to know before you go!
If you’re looking for inspiration and motivation to start and maintain a healthier lifestyle, join our Facebook community of women just like you!