Opinion: Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habitsPublished 1:30pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013
By Gayette Grimm
Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin
There are steps you can take toward breast cancer prevention. While some risk factors, such as family history, can’t be changed, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk. These changes have been shown in studies to decrease breast cancer risk, even in high-risk women. Here are some to consider:
•Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol — including beer, wine or liquor — limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.
•Don’t smoke. Evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
•Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
•Be physically active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly is recommended, plus strength training at least twice a week.
•Breast-feed. Breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
•Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You may be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies, such as physical activity. If you decide the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you.
•Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation, which have been linked with breast cancer risk. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary.
•Most importantly, be vigilant about breast cancer detection. Doing self-breast exams once a month helps you learn the normal feel and appearance of your breasts. That makes it easier to notice subtle changes, should they occur. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor. Also, ask your doctor when to begin mammograms and other screenings.
At Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System, we offer mammograms to women beginning at age 40 and continuing annually. However, when to begin mammogram screening and how often to repeat it is a personal decision. We recommend women and their providers discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of mammograms and decide together what is best.
Gayette Grimm, M.D., is a general surgeon practicing on the Austin campus of Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin. For more information please call 507-433-8758 or go to mayoclinichealthsystem.org.