By: Jane Langille
Think you’ve got the facts straight about breast cancer? Did you know that one-third of breast cancers can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle?
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation recently released a list of facts about breast cancer as part of their new #OneNewThing campaign. Take charge of your breast health and consider the following:
- Family history. Only 5-10 per cent of breast cancers are linked to family history. The rest are due to a combination of other factors and many of them can be addressed by living healthier.
- Risk generally increases with age. Living well and regular screening are your best defenses. The risk of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years, for women of average risk, who are 30-39 years of age, is 0.4 per cent, rising to 3.2 per cent for those who are 60-69 years of age.1 Learn more about breast cancer risk for women of different ages.
- Get moving. Regular physical activity reduces your risk. What’s surprising is that the benefits of an active lifestyle begin as soon as you start, no matter how old you are.
- Be breast aware. Some breast changes are normal while others are not. Learn about breast health warning signs to look for from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and talk to your doctor about any unusual changes.
- Early detection saves lives. Regular screening can find early stage breast cancer, even tumours too small for you to feel. All provinces and territories provide breast screening for women aged 50-69 and eligibility outside this age range varies by province. Speak to your doctor if you have other breast cancer risk factors that may warrant a referral.
- Don’t believe the headlines about ‘superfoods.’ There is no evidence that eating ‘superfoods’ can prevent breast cancer. Your best bets are to eat a variety of healthy foods and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Every alcoholic drink increases your risk. You may have heard that a glass of red wine is good for heart health, but no amount of any kind of alcohol is good for your breasts. In fact, one standard drink a day increases a woman’s risk by up to 13 per cent. Alcohol is a known carcinogen and breast tissue is particularly sensitive to the cancer-causing action of alcohol. Your risk increases by how much you drink and how often.2
- Smoking and second-hand smoke have been linked to breast cancer. Break up with smoking for good with helpful tips in our post How to Stick to Your Quit Smoking Plan.
- The use of birth control pills can increase your risk. However, the risk is small: For every 10,000 women who use the birth control pill, there are up to 2 additional cases of breast cancer.3 Lifestyle and family history of genetic breast cancer have a greater impact on breast cancer risk, so talk with your doctor about your total health picture to assess your personal risk.