Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the United States. In 2008 (the last recent numbers available), there were 210,200 new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Cancer Society estimates you have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer during your lifetime.
Researchers still don’t know what causes healthy cells in a woman’s breast to form tumors. But they do know that certain risk factors have been linked to the disease. Some, like aging, are beyond your control. But there are certain lifestyle habits that up your risk that you can do something about.
Don’t worry about the factors you can’t change. Instead, take control by doing everything you can to make healthier choices in your life. Here are a few examples of the changes you can put in practice right away:
Embrace exercise and a healthier diet. Looking to jumpstart a fitness routine? There’s an app for that — and some won’t cost you a dime. Try the Nike Training Camp (free for both Android and iPhones), which lets you customize your fitness routine (and level). There are also calorie-counting and healthy menu-planning apps. Or sign up for HumanaVitality, and get rewarded for the healthy choices you make.
If you’re going through menopause, talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy. Learn the pros and cons of each type, and see which one is right for you. Then stay on HRT for a short time — think months, not years — to relieve the worst symptoms. Sometimes changes in diet and exercise can minimize menopausal symptoms — another good reason to change your eating and workout habits.
Limit your drinking. Women who drink one alcoholic beverage a day increase their risk a bit. But those who drink two or more a day raise that rate by one-and-a-half times, according to the ACS. Drink in moderation, and whatever you do, don’t binge.
If you’re pregnant, try to breastfeed as long as possible. Nursing is not only good for your health — it has a ton of benefits for your baby, too.