Taking Charge of Your Breast Health

by Lila Lazarus

“Breast cancer:  We’re going to wipe you off the face of the Earth!” I screamed at the top of my lungs to a crowd of 50,000 people outside Detroit’s Comerica Park. This was my 20th year standing on the podium at Detroit’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It’s the largest race in Michigan and one of the largest Races for the Cure in the nation. The crowd of survivors, family members, caregivers and friends come together every year to raise money and awareness to put breast cancer out of business.  We laugh and cry and hear from politicians who make equally big promises.

But the reality is, we’re still facing a breast cancer epidemic. It’s still one in eight American women who will face the diagnosis this year. Despite all the “awareness” and the sea of pink ribbons lining Woodward, three of my closest friends are fighting the disease and, no doubt, several of yours.

You see the fear in their eyes. You sense the dread and despair of their children and the ever-present exhaustion. Medicine is getting much better at beating back the disease, but still, we fear it. (In fact, most women fear breast cancer more than heart disease even though we’re ten times more likely to die of heart disease.)

Your biggest risk factor is just being a woman.  And there’s no one sure-fire way to guarantee you won’t get the disease,  but there are ways to significantly improve your risk profile. Here are nine ways to slash your chances of developing breast cancer:

  1. Stand up. No matter how much you think you exercise, if you sit for long periods a day – more than six hours – you are increasing your risk.
  2. Know your family history. Don’t just look at your mom’s family tree. Trace your Dad’s side, as well.  (Though none of my friends battling the disease had ANY family history. Only about 10 percent of cases are hereditary.)
  3. Know your breast type. If you have dense breasts – more tissue than fat – the disease is harder to detect and leaves you at greater risk. It may  require more than a mammogram, perhaps an MRI or ultrasound, to see abnormalities.
  4. Battle the bulge. The more fat you have, the higher your chances of getting breast cancer, because your estrogen levels are higher. Women who gain 20 to 30 pounds after age 18 are 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
  5. Take a walk. There’s proof that walking  two hours a week can reduce your risk by nearly 20 percent. Exercise is a proven breast-healthy habit.
  6. Breast feed your babies. There’s significant research showing that breastfeeding, by temporarily stopping your menstrual cycle, lowers the amount of estrogen in your body and reduces your risk of cancer.
  7. Eat Carrots. Why? Because you need to bolster the amount of carotenoids in your system. The best foods to protect you from breast cancer are fruits and vegetables.  Eat leafy greens and red peppers. And get five servings a day.
  8. Don’t pour a second glass. Limit the amount of alcohol to just one drink or you’ll increase your risk.
  9. Get a mammogram. The best way to beat breast cancer is to find it early.

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Lila Lazarus PhotoLila’s Health Report:
In order to stay healthy, you need to stay active and engaged. In addition to exercise, good nutrition and sleep, you also need a good dose of adventure. So each month I’ll share ways to boost the excitement and passion in your life with adventurous ways to create more wellness in your body, mind and your spirit.

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