October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an ideal time to proactively take steps to reduce the risk of developing this disease. Considering the fact that breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women – and that about one in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes – this is not an issue to be taken lightly.
Although breast cancer is roughly 100 times less common among men than women, males are by no means immune. Specifically, a man’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is approximately one in 1,000. Additionally, about 2,360 new cases of male, invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed annually, and some 430 men will die from breast cancer each year.
Five Steps to Reduce Risk
While you can’t change some breast cancer risk factors – such as genetics and aging – there are steps that both men and women can take that may reduce the risk of developing this disease:
- Maintain a height-appropriate weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This risk factor is of maximum concern following menopause and for women who gain weight as adults. Surprisingly, in postmenopausal women, the primary source of estrogen is not the ovaries, but – rather – fat. Consequently, the increased risk may be traceable to more estrogen being produced in fatty tissue.Experts thus advise, if you’re at a healthy weight for your height, maintain that weight. Conversely, if you’re overweight, now is the time to embark on a weight-reduction program. As a starting point, set a goal of losing from 5% to 10% of your current weight over a six-month period.
- Exercise regularly. Numerous studies have concluded that exercising on a regular basis is a breast-healthy habit. Even as little as 75 to 150 minutes of brisk walking per week has been shown to reduce the risk of developing this disease.According to the American Cancer Society, men and women should strive to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise – or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise – each week.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Research reveals that women who consume two or more alcoholic beverages per day have about 1½ times the risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink at all. The American Cancer Society thus recommends that women limit their alcoholic intake to no more than one drink per day, and that men imbibe no more than two drinks daily. Within this context, a single drink equates to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof hard liquor.
- Think twice before starting menopausal hormone therapy. Historically, hormones – such as estrogen and progestin – had routinely been prescribed to reduce night sweats, hot flashes, and other symptoms associated with menopause. Several years ago, however, researchers found that postmenopausal women who took a combination of estrogen and progestin were more likely to develop breast cancer. It’s worth noting that researchers also concluded that the risk of breast cancer appears to return to normal within five years after stopping the hormone regimen.
- Don’t smoke. In recent years, several studies have concluded that long-term, heavy smoking increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Given the preponderance of additional evidence that smoking is extremely detrimental to one’s health, the clear recommendation is: If you don’t smoke – don’t start. If you do smoke – quit.
Participate in an Event
If you’re interested in participating in a Breast Cancer Awareness event, click on the American Cancer Society link below to find an event in your area.