Since Breast Cancer Awareness Month was officially established in 1989, we’ve all become familiar with the pink ribbons that adorn cars and storefronts this time of year. For many of us, these symbols remind us of a loved one, or even our own struggles with this frightening disease. Cancer researchers have made some remarkable strides over the course of the past 28 years, and yet more than 200,000 women continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. So what can you do to monitor your own health and reduce your risk of developing breast cancer?
Get Plenty of Exercise
You can start by staying active. Regular exercise has a variety of health benefits, including a reduced risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that most healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. By helping to maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise can reduce the risk of a number of other obesity-related cancers as well.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Carotenoids are a group of phytochemicals found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, kale and spinach. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, maintaining a diet high in carotenoids can reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as 28 percent.
While you’re at it, limit your alcohol intake as well; consuming more than 1 alcoholic drink per day is associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Breast self-exams are a proven method of detecting the early stages of breast cancer. You might only get a mammogram once every couple of years, but you can conduct this simple cancer screening procedure at any time in the comfort of your own home. Remember: breast cancer is much easier to treat when it’s detected early on in its development.
Check Your Family History
An estimated 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are caused by hereditary gene mutations. If someone in your family—especially a parent or grandparent—has been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past, talk to your doctor and discuss what you can do to limit your own breast cancer risk factors.