There are certainly many ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer that are more effective than screening mammograms. More importantly these strategies reduce the risk of developing breast cancer (something mammography never does) and also reduce the overall risk of dying - again something mammography has never been shown to do.
Here is how you can reduce your risk for breast cancer:
Limit meats and sweets.
Eat a diet low in fatty meats and refined sugars and higher in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A recent study of Chinese women found that those adopting a more Western-style diet with more meats and sweets had over twice the risk of dying from breast cancer as those that stuck with a more traditional Chinese diet of soy and vegetables.
Now is the time to put more fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains and legumes in your diet!
Reconsider your hormone replacement therapy decision.
Hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of dying from breast cancer by about 24%, which is far more than mammography might reduce in postmenopausal women.
Getting adequate sunshine vitamin D, exercise and maintain a healthy body weight
Being more active outdoors can make a difference. Being outside during the day helps you get enough Vitamin D which has been shown to help reduce the risk of cancers. PLUS being more active can help keep you at a healthy body weight.
Did you know it is especially important to have a healthy body weight before puberty and after menopause?
Exercise and lower body fat stores delay puberty while a rich Western diet and inactivity brings on early puberty, which greatly increases breast cancer risk.
In older women, increased body fat stores raise estrogen levels and delay menopause both of which greatly increase the risk of breast cancer.
Drink little alcohol.
It has also been shown that consuming alcohol even in moderation (1-2 drinks/day) likely increases the risk of breast cancer substantially more than even the most optimistic studies on mammography might reduce the risk of breast cancer mortality.
And finally growing data suggest having babies earlier in life and breast-feeding them reduces the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
Choosing to have children sooner and breastfeed them longer can definitely have a positive effect on women’s health.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, LD, FACN.
For more information on women’s health and the latest mammography recommendations, visit http://www.ahrq.gov/ - search on Women’s Health under topics or click on Women under populations - scroll down to Cancer and Breast Cancer screenings for latest news.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.