10 Prevention Tips for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Throughout October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, experts from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and its clinical care partner, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, are offering a series of weekly research-based tip sheets regarding a variety of topics related to breast cancer, including breast cancer prevention, screening and early detection, treatment, and survivorship.

The series launched Oct. 1 with "10 Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention" provided by Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hutchinson Center's Prevention Center, a member of the Center's Public Health Sciences Division, and author of "Breast Fitness" (St. Martin's Press).

Other upcoming tip sheets will include:

  • Oct. 8 - "10 Tips for Breast Cancer Screening and Early Detection" by Constance Lehman, M.D., Ph.D., director of Breast Imaging and medical director of Radiology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
  • Oct. 15 - "10 Tips for Breast Cancer Patients During Treatment" by Julie Gralow, M.D., director of Breast Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and co-author of "Breast Fitness" (St. Martin’s Press).
  • Oct. 22 - "10 Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors" by Karen Syrjala, Ph.D., director of Biobehavioral Sciences and co-director of the Survivorship Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The first of four tip sheets in the series follows:

10 TIPS FOR BREAST CANCER PREVENTION

  1. Avoid becoming overweight. Obesity raises the risk of breast cancer after menopause, the time of life when breast cancer most often occurs. Avoid gaining weight over time, and try to maintain a body-mass index under 25 (calculators can be found online).
  2. Eat healthy to avoid tipping the scale. Embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods. Eat lean protein such as fish or chicken breast and eat red meat in moderation, if at all. Eat whole grains. Choose vegetable oils over animal fats.
  3. Keep physically active. Research suggests that increased physical activity, even when begun later in life, reduces overall breast-cancer risk by about 10 percent to 30 percent. All it takes is moderate exercise like a 30-minute walk five days a week to get this protective effect.
  4. Drink little or no alcohol. Alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Women should limit intake to no more than one drink per day, regardless of the type of alcohol.
  5. Avoid hormone replacement therapy. Menopausal hormone therapy increases risk for breast cancer. If you must take hormones to manage menopausal symptoms, avoid those that contain progesterone and limit their use to less than three years. "Bioidentical hormones" and hormonal creams and gels are no safer than prescription hormones and should also be avoided.
  6. Consider taking an estrogen-blocking drug. Women with a family history of breast cancer or who are over age 60 should talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of estrogen-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene.
  7. Don't smoke. Research suggests that long-term smoking is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in some women. Need help quitting? Consider participating in WebQuit, the Hutchinson Center's online smoking-cessation study.
  8. Breast-feed your babies for as long as possible. Women who breast-feed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later.
  9. Participate in a research study. The Hutchinson Center is home to several studies that are looking at ways to reduce the risk for breast cancer. Check their website periodically for studies that might be appropriate for you. Just go to www.fhcrc.org and click on "How You Can Help."
  10. Get fit and support breast cancer research at the same time. Regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Ascend some of the world's most breathtaking peaks while raising vital funds for and awareness of breast cancer research by participating in the Hutchinson Center's annual Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. For more information, visit www.fhcrc.org/climb.

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