By Guest Blogger Robin Amylon
In yesterday’s post on beating breast cancer, we discussed the various risk factors that can lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. In today’s post, we’ll explore the preventative measures you can take to try and limit your chances of being diagnosed.
How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?
Below is a list from the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) of things you can do to prevent all types of cancer, including breast cancer.
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing breast cancer. Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk. Where you store extra weight also affects cancer risk. Carrying extra body fat in your midsection increases your risk for not only cancer but other disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Any type of physical activity can help lower cancer risk.
- Avoid sugary drinks and limit consumption of energy-dense foods and processed foods. In other words: KEEP IT CLEAN! Consuming sugary drinks such as soda, sweetened iced tea, fruit punch and even juice adds excess calories with no other nutritional value and can lead to unwanted weight gain. The same is true for energy-dense foods. Energy dense foods are foods that are high in calories but very low in macro and micronutrients such as protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. It is better to fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods instead. Nutrient dense foods are foods that are low in calories but very high in macro and micronutrients. Examples of nutrient-dense foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, nuts and seeds. Consuming foods as close to how they naturally exist in nature will help to increase nutrient-dense foods while decreasing energy-dense foods in your diet. Research has also shown that consuming too much salt and salt preserved foods may increase your chances of developing cancer. As we all know, processed foods should not be included in your diet on a regular basis for various health reasons, so it should be no surprise that avoiding these foods is also important for reducing your risk of breast cancer.
- Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans. Research shows that vegetables, fruits and foods high in fiber are linked to a reduced risk of cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect against cancer. Plant foods are also nutrient-dense and low in energy-density which can help to maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork, and lamb) and avoid processed meats. To reduce your risk of cancer the AICR recommends that you consume no more than 18oz (cooked weight) of red meat per week and avoid processed meats. Red meat has been associated with promoting colorectal cancer as it contains compounds that have been shown to damage the lining of the gut. Some research also suggests that frying, broiling or grilling meats at very high temperatures forms chemicals that can damage DNA and cause cancer. Braising, steaming, poaching and stewing meats are recommended as these cooking methods produce fewer chemicals. Processed meat refers to meats that have been preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives. Examples include ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages. Sodium nitrite is added to processed meats to prevent bacterial growth. These meats are also smoked to preserve and enhance color and flavor. These preservation techniques may add compounds that can increase the potential of these foods to cause cancer. Eating these meats increases your exposure to these potential cancer-causing agents and should be avoided as much as possible.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women per day. As I stated in yesterday’s post, alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancer and should be limited. A drink of alcohol is defined as 12oz of beer, 5oz of wine and 1.5oz of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor). All alcoholic beverages increase the risk of several types of cancer, so it’s the amount of alcohol consumed that’s important, rather than the type. But why do men get to have more fun and drink more alcohol? Well this is due to a few different reasons. In general women have a smaller body size than men. Women also metabolize alcohol more slowly than men do so alcohol stays in a woman’s blood stream longer. Men also tend to have more muscle, whereas women tend to have more body fat. Alcohol can be diluted into water that is held in muscle tissue, but not in fat tissue. A women’s risk for breast cancer increases with greater alcohol consumption. Women at high risk for breast cancer should consider avoiding alcohol.
- Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer. It is always best to get all the nutrients you need from actual food. This is due to the fact that whole foods have several different vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber that all work together to help protect your body from diseases and keep you healthy. All of these compounds cannot be isolated in pill form. The body also absorbs and utilizes these compounds better when they are in their natural form. Also, several studies have shown that high-doses of certain supplements can even increase cancer risk. So it is better to get all your nutrients from food in its most natural form rather than taking pills.
For further information on breast cancer as well as other types of cancer visit:
- The American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
- The American Institute for Cancer Research: www.aicr.org
Robin Amylon is an NYC-based Nutritionist. She received her Bachelor of Science from Queens College in Nutrition and Exercise Science and is currently finishing a program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital to become a Dietitian.