Researchers have concluded that avoiding weight gain, not taking hormones, exercising and limiting alcohol, are the best ways to lower your risk of breast cancer. One of my favorite newsletters, Nutrition Action, had a great article about how to lower your risk of breast cancer. The article pointed to these four factors as being the most important to prevent breast cancer.

1- Avoid Weight Gain

Dr. Walter Willet from Harvard said, “ Probably the single most important thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer is avoid weight gain in adult life”.

What’s confusing about weight gain is that it seems to increase your risk of breast cancer when your older (postmenopausal) but lower your risk when you’re younger (premenopausal). Regina Ziegler, a researcher from the National Cancer Institute, said “ Part of the problem is that obesity is protective at young ages”.  Rachel Ballard-Barbash, a director of a research program at the National Cancer Institute, pointed out that women who don’t take hormones increase their risk of breast cancer two to three times if they are over weight.

How over weight do you have to be to increase your risk of breast cancer?

Being 10 to 15 pounds over weight is not that significant but gaining 20 to 30 pounds as an adult can increase your risk.  Researchers feel that if your body mass index (BMI) is 27% or more, you can increase your risk. Obesity is considered 30% so you don’t have to be obese to increase your risk.

Two reasons why weight gain can cause breast cancer.

Estrogen and insulin are two main reasons why being over weight can increase your risk.  Estrogen travels through the blood stream as estradiol. Ziegler says “ ten years ago, we were thrilled to be able to demonstrate that women with higher circulating estradiol levels have a higher risk of breast cancer. This can explain why being over weight can increase your risk. Fat cells produce estrogen, so the more over weight you are the more estrogen you can produce.

Insulin is one of the other ways you can increase your risk. Studies have shown that women with high fasting insulin levels had a 2.5 times greater risk of breast cancer than someone with low insulin levels.  Insulin is a storage hormone produced by the pancreas to take the sugar out of the blood and store it in the liver and muscle in the form of glycogen.  Obesity is linked to high insulin levels and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when insulin does not work as well as it should to take the sugar out of the blood and store it.

2- Stay Away from Hormones

About nine years ago, the Women’s National Institute of Health said it was stopping a trial early due to the fact that women who were taking hormones had more breast cancer than a group who were not.  There was a 27% increase in breast cancer. Donald A. Berry, Ph.D., from the Anderson Cancer Center said “ prolonged hormone replacement therapy strongly elevates postmenopausal breast cancer risk”

3- Start Exercising

It seems the more active you are the less chance you have of getting breast cancer. There have been dozens of studies indicating that living an active life style can reduce your risk. Exercise seems to have some type of protective effect on the breast. A number of researchers feel that exercise reduces body fat therefore reducing estrogen. Some studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of breast cancer.

4- Limit Alcohol

Even one drink a day can increase your risk of breast cancer researches have found. Walter Willett from Harvard said ‘ One of the best-proven ways to lower your risk of breast cancer is to keep alcohol consumption low”.  Most cancer researchers feel that there is no proven benefit to drinking alcohol and the added risk of gaining weight from drinking can increase your risk of breast cancer.

I know women are worried about breast cancer just like men are worried about prostate cancer. I hope this information can help. There are always healthy things you can do to put the odds on your side.

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Best – Mike Cola

Demystifying Health

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