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Feb 16, 2008

Ways to fight Breast Cancer

There is no guaranteed protection against breast cancer, but there are things you can do reduce your risk.

An estimated one in eight women will be afflicted with breast cancer in her lifetime. Although there is no guaranteed protection against the disease, there are things you can do lower your risk. Follow these tips to prevent breast cancer and to support finding a cure:

• Maintain a healthy weight. There is a strong link between obesity and breast cancer, particularly if extra weight is added after menopause.

• Schedule an annual mammogram. This is vital after age 40, as mammograms may help detect early signs of breast cancer, sometimes up to several years before a lump can be felt.

• Eat foods high in fiber. Try to consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Among its many health benefits, fiber may help reduce the amount of circulating estrogen in the body. Foods high in fiber include whole grains and beans.

• Avoid long-term hormone therapy. The link between postmenopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer has been a subject of debate for years, and research results have been mixed. For women approaching menopause and having frequent symptoms, experts believe it's probably safe to take hormones for as long as four to five years—any longer increases breast cancer risk, without conferring any clear benefits.

• Enjoy soy. Isoflavones in soy foods are weak estrogen-like compounds that block the action of estrogen, which may contribute to breast cancer. Use soy flour in recipes, add tofu to soups or main dishes, eat green soybeans, or drink soy milk.

• Limit alcohol consumption. Drinking alcoholic beverages is linked to breast cancer, and the type of alcohol doesn’t seem to matter. Consume less than one alcoholic beverage per day, or better yet, avoid it entirely.

• Stay physically active. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Try to include weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, or dancing, which have the added benefit of keeping bones strong.

• Eat good fats. Certain types of fats seem to increase estrogen levels, which, in turn, raise breast cancer risk. Opt for monounsaturated oils like olive and canola and omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, sardines, and herring. Avoid trans fats, found in stick margarine, packaged baked goods, and snack foods, and the polyunsaturated fats featured in corn, sunflower, and safflower oils.

• Consider aspirin therapy. Taking an aspirin just once a week may help protect against breast cancer, but be sure to consult a doctor before starting an aspirin regimen. When used for long periods of time, aspirin can cause stomach irritation, bleeding, and ulcers.

• Avoid additives. When possible, buy hormone-free organic meats, poultry, and dairy foods. Be sure to wash fresh produce and remove peels to get rid of pesticide residue.

• Try vitamin E. In a small study at State University of New York at Buffalo, participants with a family history of breast cancer had an 80 percent lower risk for developing breast cancer if their diets contained 10 or more IU per day of vitamin E.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables. In particular, get enough cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, which can boost cancer-fighting enzymes.

• Perform monthly breast self-exams. Women can detect lumps or changes in their breasts by performing exams every month. The best time to do a self-exam is a week after the start of your period, when breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen.

• Breastfeed if possible. Some studies have shown that breastfeeding may decrease the risk of breast cancer later in life.

• Participate in the fight against breast cancer. There are numerous ways to get involved in raising awareness and money for breast cancer research, so do your research and get started today.

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