Here’s to Your Breast Health

Here’s to Your Breast Health

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According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, in the next year nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 women will die. Sobering statistics such as those beg the question, “What can I do to help prevent breast cancer?” The American Breast Cancer Society suggests that making life changes such as drinking less alcohol and exercising more, as well as administering self breast exams and getting clinical breast exams and mammograms will help alleviate the risk of breast cancer.

Moderation is Key

An excessive use of alcohol is linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to The American Breast Cancer Society. Not to say that you drinking alcohol causes cancer — compared with nondrinkers, women who consume one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk, so having a nightcap after a long day of work isn’t going to hurt you. However, women who have two to five drinks a day have around one and a half times more risk than women who pass on a Cosmopolitan. For that reason, and the fact overconsumption of alcohol increases the probability of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver, The American Cancer Society recommends limiting the consumption of alcohol.

Get Physical

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer, especially for women after menopause, according to The American Cancer Society. The ovaries of premenopausal women produce most of their estrogen, though a small amount is produced by fat tissue. After menopause, when a woman’s ovaries have stopped making estrogen, her fat tissue provides most of that hormone. That’s the problem for overweight women after menopause, because having a large amount of fat tissue can increase estrogen levels, which increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer.

Combat the risk by physical activity, which The American Cancer Society says reduces the risk of breast cancer. Its Web site quotes one study from the Women’s Health Initiative which shows 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduces the risk of breast cancer by 18 percent. Reap the benefit of exercise by getting your best girlfriends together for a group walk-a-thon, such as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 14

Develop a Plan

We know our readers love being on the cutting edge of fashion and the social scene, but being on the forefront of developing an early breast cancer detection plan is just as important, and knowledgeable women should take different precautions at different ages, according to The National Breast Cancer Association.

Women ages 20 to 39 should have a clinical breast examination every three years. At the age of 40, you should get a baseline mammogram; another name for a woman’s first screening mammogram. All future mammogram images will be compared to the ones taken during the baseline mammogram. Women aged 40 to 49 should have a mammogram every one to two years based on previous findings, while women age 50 or older should get a mammogram every year regardless of findings.

Also, beginning as early as the age of 20, women should perform monthly breast self-examinations. You should know how your breasts normally feel, and should therefore report any breast change promptly to your health care provider. Visit for written instructions and accompanying demonstrative diagrams. Picking up a planner specifically for recording your self-exams (and findings), mammograms and doctor’s appointments will also help you be self aware and will ultimately benefit your health.