In a world where we are juggling so much on a daily basis, the mental investment that must be made to even think about chronic illness (like breast cancer) can feel like too much. When it comes to understanding the risk of breast cancer, it can be easy to want to say, “I have to be strong, this can’t happen to me” and leave it at that.
The facts are hard: Black women are dying at rates greater than white women every day. Incidence of aggressive breast cancer types is more prevalent in black women and risk resulting from some genetic mutations like BRCA2 is as well. What doesn’t have to be hard is setting small intentions that ladder up to taking charge of your breast health. We have to translate our awareness into something more tangible to give ourselves the best chance at a healthy and prolonged life. There are simple actions we can put into practice (and sustain) to prevent breast cancer or detect it at early, non-life-threatening stages.
Tip 1: Your Risk is Unique. Learn more about it.
One of the most powerful actions you can take to be proactive is to understand your personal risk of breast cancer. There are many factors that influence risk including personal health history, lifestyle, and family health history (which we talked about in our last post).
We recommend that you visit Assess Your Risk™, our quiz that asks questions about all of these factors and gives you a tailored report on your risk level for both breast and ovarian cancer. With this information, you’ll have a more guided, personal recommendation for how to be proactive with your breast health. And, you can share this resource with others to influence the health of your sisters.
Tip 2: Take Care of Your Temple
Bodyweight is one of the most significant lifestyle factors that contribute to personal risk of breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy BMI has been shown to reduce risk in scientific studies, but this can be a challenge for the 44% of African American women over the age of 18 who are classified as obese.
There are many factors that contribute to body weight, but one of the most controllable elements is how often you exercise. Exercising for 30 minutes on most days (enough to get your heart rate up) can help reduce your risk of breast cancer and potentially positively impact your bodyweight. Dancing and interval training are great places to start, and 21Ninety can help you make fitness part of your everyday routine.
Tip 3: Nutrition Counts
Your diet has the power to impact your personal risk for breast cancer. There is a known link between alcohol and breast cancer. Research shows that for every standard drink (think a restaurant pour’s worth of wine or a can of beer) can impact your risk of breast cancer. Sticking to one drink per day (or eliminating alcohol completely) is a healthy mantra.
Eating red meat increases your breast cancer risk, too. Consider replacing one source of red meat with an alternative like chicken, eggs, beans, or fish.
Low levels of Vitamin D have also been shown to lead to an increased risk of breast (and ovarian) cancer. The sun is our best source of Vitamin D, but you can also get it from certain foods, such as eggs, milk, and salmon. If you’re not sure if you have normal levels of Vitamin D, your healthcare provider may be able to help check your levels and determine if supplements are right for you.
Making a positive change for your breast health doesn’t have to involve uprooting your life overnight. There are incremental changes and quick choices we can make that have a long-lasting impact. By knowing our risk and making healthy choices to reduce our risk, we are building a strong foundation for our future health.