Do You Have Good Breast Health?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but this disease affects women all year long. In the United States alone, breast cancer incidence in women is one in eight, or roughly 13%. In fact, among women in the United States, breast cancer rates are higher than those of any cancer besides lung cancer.
With such staggering figures, it’s important for both women and men (who can also suffer from breast cancer) to know how to have good breast health and gain a greater understanding of this deadly disease.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. Any type of cancer is the result of mutations in genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. In a healthy body, the cells replace themselves in an orderly fashion, as healthy new cells take over when old ones die out. When mutations occur, changed cells gain the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more similar cells and forming a tumor.
In the case of breast cancer, cancerous cells gradually invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes, which are small organs that filter out foreign substances in the body. If the cancer reaches the lymph nodes, it then has a pathway into other parts of the body. Upon diagnosis, a patient will be told what stage of breast cancer they are in, which tells how far the cancer has spread beyond the original tumor. Scientists are not sure totally how to have good breast health but here’s a discussion of the issues:
Is Breast Cancer Hereditary?
According to BreastCancer.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing reliable, complete and current information about breast cancer, only 5%-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from a parent. While all breast cancers are caused by a genetic abnormality, roughly 90% of breast cancer cases are the result of genetic abnormalities resulting from the aging process and the wear and tear of everyday life.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented?
Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits is always an ideal approach, but breast cancer is never the fault of the individual. A balanced diet, a lifestyle that includes abstaining from smoking and drinking alcohol in excess, and regular exercise are all ways to stay healthy, but none will guarantee a woman or man will not get breast cancer. Practicing the above items definitely and specifically reduce heart disease risk factors. These healthy lifestyle habits, however, are shown to potentially show a reduction in the incidence of breast cancer.
Are there Risk Factors For Breast Cancer?
BreastCancer.org notes there are factors a woman or man can control that might lessen their risk for breast cancer. Those risks include:
- Weight – Post-menopausal women in particular can reduce their risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight. Fat tissue is the body’s main source of estrogen after menopause, and having more fat tissue means higher estrogen levels, which increases breast cancer risk.
- Diet – Many cancers are linked to diet, but studies have yet to show for certain which types of foods increase the risk for breast cancer. In general, it’s good to restrict sources of red meat and other animal fats, such as fats from dairy products. Some studies have shown that eating a lot of red and/or processed meats is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Eating a diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables is often recommended to reduce cancer risk.
- Exercise – The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45-60 minutes of physical exercise 5 or more days per week, as evidence continues to mount that exercise can reduce breast cancer risk.
- Alcohol and Smoking – Alcohol limits the liver’s ability to control blood levels of estrogen, which can increase risk of breast cancer. Similarly, smoking has been associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk.
BreastCancer.org also notes additional risk factors for breast cancer can include recent oral contraceptive use, stress and anxiety, and exposure to estrogen.
While all of the mentioned risk factors are within an individual’s control, additional factors beyond a person’s control can increase risk of breast cancer. These factors include age, family history, personal history, and race. Good breast health seems to be linked to healthy lifestyle habits, which also reduce heart disease risk factors.